Global Movement

Public can enjoy dance styles from around the world


September 09, 2005|By Kim Hart | Kim Hart,SUN STAFF

In Columbia, 15 youngsters clicked their heels to the quick tempo of a traditional Irish jig. In Baltimore, three generations of African-American dancers moved rhythmically to the pounding of drums, singing lyrics in West African dialects. And in Laurel, six women in sleek black dresses whirled in a series of exotic Spanish Flamenco steps.

All were preparing for performances in the 2005-2006 arts season - the Baltimore Irish Festival in September, an African dance concert at Center Stage in October and Maryland Dance Council's Annapolis Gala Concert in November. Though the steps and techniques they've mastered come from distant lands and ancient traditions, these performers underscore a burgeoning interest in multicultural and ethnic dance in the area.

"There's more of a community connection to ethnic dance performances," says Cheryl T. Goodman, director of Dance Baltimore! an organization that promotes dance awareness in the area. "At no time in a ballet performance are you asked to come up onto the stage. A lot of these ethnic styles were created as something the whole village did, instead of people trained to do it while other people watched."

The region's diverse population also feeds greater appreciation of disparate dance styles, says Maureen Berry, founder of the Teelin School of Irish Dance. "Everybody wants to know about their roots."

Baltimore venues are attracting internationally renowned artists. Towson University this year will be the first stop on the national tour of Japanese dancer Ko Murobushi, a renowned Butoh (a type of modern Japanese dance) artist. Also, Chinese dancer and choreographer Nai-Ni Chen will spend the year training students to perform at the university's spring concert in May.

The University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center will present more than five touring companies, including the Children of Uganda, a troupe of 30 African children orphaned by HIV and AIDS who dance and drum, and Peru Negro, a company presenting the traditions of black Peruvian culture. The center's calendar is a "reflection of this diverse region and the communities around us," said Director of Cultural Participation Ruth Waalkes.

A number of independent recitals also are cropping up on the calendar. The World Dance Festival - to be held at the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus Oct. 8 - will include the traditional Bharatha Natyam style of dance from India. On Oct. 16, Kinetics Dance Theatre will hold its second Cultural Unity Day in Ellicott City, featuring Israeli, Polish, Latin, Hawaiian, and Irish dance. The Baltimore Scottish Country Dancers will hold a free demonstration March 18.

Multicultural dance has worked its way into theater performances as well. In December, Center Stage is presenting the play "Once on This Island," which would "not have a heart or soul without Caribbean-inspired dance," said the show's director and choreographer Kenneth Lee Roberson. The Irish dance production "Riverdance" will take the stage at the Lyric Opera House in June.

"Our motto is that everyone in the village can dance," says Willa Walker, co-director of the Return to Goree African Dance Company, which this fall will put on a concert at Center Stage. "By the end of the show, we invite the audience to join us onstage and they bust loose!"

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