From dance drama to tribal ceremony, the National Dance Company of Senegal gave an electrifying program Friday in the inhospitable sports-arena environs of the Bren Center at UC Irvine.
The 32-member company--names were listed but dancers and the brilliant drummers were not individually identified--offered a number of works that gave plenty of opportunities for virtuoso dancing, and also for creating a feeling for larger societal contexts.
In "Khady Kebe," a young girl who rejects a suitor is poisoned in revenge during her marriage to another man. In "Mbini N'dam," bare-breasted women ceremoniously help crown the best male dancer in the village.
Both works frequently erupted into the high-stepping, percussive footwork that characterized much of the dancing on the program. These explosive passages, often done by pairs of dancers, always seemed more joyous expression than competitive dancing, and the women's roles were virtually as demanding as the men's.