By Sid Smith, Special to the Tribune
Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago has been a reliable home for the African and African-American tradition for decades now, all the while peopled by dynamite dancers who put on a great show.
That proved the case at Saturday's Harris Theater outing and then some: The troupe introduced two terrific new works broadening the company's aesthetic scope while managing a top-flight program blending dance and live musicianship. Artistic director Amaniyea Payne and company are on a red hot roll.
Reggie Wilson, an American choreographer with deep ties to contemporary African choreography, delivers a knockout in "SHOUTing Rings--a work," a tribute to historic song and dance. At times, the dancers, clad in white, just seem to amble about the stage as they sing great folk classics, one overcome for a spell with religious frenzy. But intermittently they erupt in dance, leading to a sensational climax, their bodies vibrating intensely amidst an exhilarating circle dance.
Theodore Jamison's homage to Katherine Dunham, "The Blood," also mixes song and dance as it travels through time and space to link gospel tradition and African authenticity, tying church service to invigorating ritual. Throughout, the overall concert featured vocalists, including Frances Sanders Rush in a spoken and sung serenade to mothers, and the traditional Muntu percussion interlude quite simply threatened Saturday to set drum skins aflame. The finale from "Kakilambe," was reminder of the excitement embedded in the troupe's ongoing mission.