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R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Senegal Ballet: Wordless Communication : Dancers and musicians 'vibrate to the same drummers' as opening-night guests at the Irvine Barclay.

March 09, 1995|KATHRYN BOLD

The exuberant spirit of the National Ballet of Senegal proved contagious Tuesday when a crowd of about 400 joined the company for a champagne reception to celebrate the troupe's opening night performance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

During a 20-minute break in the company's production of "Pangols," the audience was invited to toast artistic director Bouly Sonko and his 40-member dance troupe. The ballet troupe, which performs traditional dances of West Africa, is making its first tour of the United States since 1988.

Before the show, about 70 arts supporters and leaders of cultural organizations from Orange County mingled with the company in the theater's Mezzanine Gallery.

Dancing to the Same Beat

"Did you enjoy it, really?" Mamadou Mansour Seck, ambassador of Senegal, asked the audience. "Yes!" the crowd yelled back.

"This is the best way to show all human beings are the same--they vibrate to the same drummers," Seck said. "Even if they're a bit rigid, they express joy the same way."

The ballet was different for most in the audience.

"It was exhilarating," said Gayle Anderson, Orange County chief of protocol, who presented a commemorative plaque to the ambassador. "They were attempting to bring part of their culture here, and they definitely did that."

High Spirits

"Through this performance, we can gain an understanding of a very important part of the world," said Peter Keller, director of the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana.

"Pangols" refers to the spiritual nature of all beings and things. The dancers, who attended the reception wearing the bright robes and head wraps of their native land, were recruited by Sonko on his travels through Senegal and spoke no English. Still, party-goers understood the message conveyed through their performance.

"People in the U.S. have a great deal to learn" from the Senegal dancers, said Doug Rankin, president of the Irvine Barclay Theatre. "They have a very profound respect for nature."

Rankin said that, on a tour of the county with the Senegal ambassador, among the things that Seck noticed was the area's development.

"The density is much less in Senegal," Rankin said.

"Pangols" will continue its exclusive Southern California engagement at the Barclay through Sunday.

Among the guests were Rudy Pollak, chairman of the Barclay board of trustees; Gary Singer, chairman of the Barclay board of directors; Garry and Susan Brooks; Michael and Marta Brennan; Dean Corey; George and Arlene Cheng; John Della Grotta; Horace and Barbara Mitchell; Richard Reinsch; Ruth Seigle, and Michael Ward.


Members of Ballet of Senegal serve up an exciting cultural sampler on opening night. F2

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