Monday, December 17, 2001

Performance combines cultures

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Dance is said to be a universal language. One area ballet company recently showed it can be unifying, too.

        The ballet tech ohio performing arts association, Cincinnati's diverse ballet and dance troupe, pulled off an unusual and successful debut of its fourth season recently, bridging divides that have defined dance for decades.

        The small company of 30-some professionals and “pre-professional” dancers performed in Rojo Ya Ngoma during three sold-out nights at the Aronoff Center's Jarson Kaplan Theater.

        The program's name is Swahili for "the spirit of dance.” It featured classical ballet, contempo rary and modern dance, African drums and dance, and even praise dancers from area churches.

        The program was conceived and directed by Claudia Rudolf Barrett, ballet tech's artistic director, to bring a diverse audience downtown and to show how multicultural and multiracial artistic collaboration plays out in dance.

        “Generally, the classical ballet crowd kind of sticks together,” said Marvel Gentry Davis, president of ballet tech's board of trustees. “Generally, they're Caucasian and older ... than people who enjoy modern dance or other art forms. There are so many idioms of dance ... it's just a matter of breaking through that wall.”

        The ballet tech ohio dancers joined with Bi-Okoto Drum & Dance Theatre, Wo-Yingi African Drum & Dance Group, and praise dancers in The Conductors, a tale of a slave family's freedom quest via the Underground Railroad.

        The African dance troops also performed high-energy numbers from Ghana and Nigeria. Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II performed Race and Kaleidoscope.


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