People use the word "natural" too lightly these days. With all that talk about natural foods and natural shampoo and natural deodorants, the term has become cheap, gimmicky. Yet after watching the National Dance Company of Senegal's performance last night at Carter Barron, "natural" seems like the best word to use when describing both the movement that this troupe engages in and the manner in which the movement emanates from the dancers' bodies.
Any American confronted with Scenegalese dancing connot help but make connecetions between popular dances like the frug, the shimmy, the twist and the boogaloo and the basic African vocabulary of elastic limbs, rotating head, unhinged hips and vibrating buttocks. Listening to the drums' overpowering and complex rhythms, one fills in the gaps and understands just how jazz and rock and disco came about. Throughout the course of the concert, cultural roots are exposed, elaborated upon, celebrated to their maximum.
The 20 or so dancers and band of musicians work as a truly unified ensemble, with each member of the group moving out into the spotlight for a time and then fading back into the whole. Into the whole. There's a place for the stiltwalker, the pretzel-like contortionist, the rubber-boddied tumbler. One dancer emphasizes the rear, another the head; a flutist plays, then a xylophone is featured. The balance and exchange of energy become infectious; soon the audience finds its part in the proceedings, and art merges with life -- just the way things should be.