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DANCE REVIEW : Senegal Company in Virtuoso Performance

November 16, 1987|CHRIS PASLES | Times Staff Writer

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 Events 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, but 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 parts were virtually as demanding as the men's.

Given between the dances were musical and vocal solos illustrating instruments such as the African flute, the balafon (a wooden xylophone), and the dan (a stringed instrument that sounds like a cross between a buzzing insect and a guitar).

If linguistic echoes can be trusted, one of the musicians took the opportunity to make a topical joke, a loose translation of which might be: Africa and Senegal, si ; Los Angeles, no .

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