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Chicago's Muntu Dance Theatre celebrates music, dance, history for 42nd year

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Muntu Dance Theatre's 42nd dance performance entitled 'The Continuum'


Women danced so intensely that necklaces and headbands flew off. Even without the drums, the sound of feet stomping on the floor took the place of percussion instruments. Bright shades of turquoise, blue, red, pink, green, black and white flashed across the stage. Men doing body rolls seemed oblivious to their own six packs. Men with no six packs moved like they had them. Drummers banged on their instruments so hard it's a wonder their hands didn't hurt too much to play. From teens to seniors, a variety of experienced dancers celebrated the art of African music, dance and culture on Sat., July 19, at University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at 915 E. 60th St.

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Welcome to the 42nd anniversary of Muntu Dance Theatre.

This year, the theme and title of the event was "The Contiuum," defined by Merriam Webster as "a range or series of things that are slightly different from each other and that exist between two different possibilities."

In the case of Muntu Dance Theatre, the possibilities are the art of rhythm. There were several group dance performances, including youth dancers from the Chicago High School for the Arts (Chi-Arts), who came out to show off their moves. But at Muntu, age is irrelevant and all groups mingle together to smile as they stomp, walk, flip, jump, roll, dip, kick, shout, jiggle and pop, showing off both modern and traditional African dance steps.

When the groups of men and women left to get ready for their next dance performance, the audience was riveted by duo performances with just a drummer and a speaker. One woman (Amina Dickerson) reminded the audience of African legends, African-American legends and Chicago legends in her "Legends" tribute. She went down memory lane of dance techniques -- freestyling her own in between -- while the drummer (Babu Atiba) played on.

Another duo called "Nia" included a young man headed to high school and an older bass player (the drummer mentioned above, Babu Atiba) was on a mission to make the audience "Remember to remember and don't forget to remember" their history. It was easy to zone out listening to the seasoned musician play the bass while his counterpart grooved along to the song.

Musicians had their own drumming solos. Dancers showed off their best techniques. Men and women flirted onstage and held hands at the end of the night.

The hour-long performance included two spoken word interludes, six choreographed routines and one instrumental drum/danceoff. When the hour ended, the last thought wasn't "The Continuuum." Instead it was "please continue on."

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