This Milestone featured the world premieres of Brazilian choreographer Rosangela Silvestre’s piece, which was titled “Guide” and “In Search Of Africa by Amaniyea Payne, Muntu’s artistic director.
As if Michelle Obama being the anniversary committee’s honorary chairperson and a letter from Mayor Daley speaking of the importance of Muntu Dance Theatre in Chicago wasn’t enough to prove that Muntu had accomplished what they had hoped to do thirty-five years ago, then maybe the fact that Life Diamonds created a special 35th Anniversary commemorative diamond ring for this special event was.
The Muntu group does something original yet traditional. They strive to embody the overall struggle and conflicting demands of African culture. 'Muntu' is loosely translated into "the essence of humanity”.
The Dance Theatre performs genuine and groundbreaking interpretations of both contemporary and ancient African and African-American dance, music, and folklore. The group not only performs professionally here in Chicago but travels extensively as well. They also have a variety of programs geared toward the public such as a community arts program, dance classes, and professional training for up and coming prospectives.
Since it’s founding in 1972, it has grown into a highly accomplished and valued dance theatre within the community. The company claims to hold a local reputation for making strong artistic statements of cultural and historical importance.
And it wasn’t long into the company’s celebratory performance until was I inclined to agree. Vibrant and Colorful, everything from the dancing to the costumes to the lighting and even the backdrops brought you closer and closer into a distant land. This Amalgamation of dance, rhythm, and dulcet song, both vocally by ensemble members and instrumentally by the talented musicians, kept giving.
One of my favorite moments was when one of the musicians played a Kora (a 21 to 29 string instrument), and the rest of the musicians made noises resembling the forest with both their instruments and vocals. At the same time the female dancers, wearing gorgeous and very specific costumes, did certain tribal like dances resembling different elements we see on earth. There were the snake ladies who moved in curves and the wind/fire girls who twirled. The finale of this was when all four groups of women came out to impress the 4 different men. It was tribal, animal, soft, and intense all at the same time.
The show was spectacular. It is apparent that the Muntu does in fact research these cultures and the implications of these extremely detailed and meaningful dances. And when I say dance, I mean for real. The best part about this is watching their body’s move like they mean it. They want to be up there dancing, sharing, and enjoying the origins of their ancestry and you can’t help but relish in it with them.