Dance Place became a stamping ground Friday night as Washington's West African drummers and dancers -- KanKouran -- unleashed their infectious rhythms. The action, as expected from this familiar group, was energetic, building to a real pitch that was resolved only when the audience joined in.
Frankly, though, the three dances were too similar. Some step patterns did look different. In a Dung Dung Ba, a cheerleading dance performed in summer before weekend wrestling matches, there were jumps. The women did a crosslegged hop to the side that looked like an akimbo version of a balletic pas de chat and the men leaped forward raising one knee in front. In the Koumpo, a rain dance, both arms were thrown back as violently as in the butterfly swim stroke. In an initiation rite for adolescents, the Mandiani, each dancer performed an agile feat yet, as a group, the men showed brawn and the women undulant sensuality. These were minor differences, though.
What all the dances had in common was stamping. It was such potent stamping that the performers become addicted to it. They beamed enjoyment, even ecstasy. They forgot the distinctions in mood between cheerleading, invocation and initiation. Something must have gotten lost between West Africa and Washington. KanKouran is one big party.