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OUT OF AFRICA

Mozambique troupe brings blend of traditional & contemporary dance

for The Brooklyn Paper

At a time when nations are troubled by misunderstandings and mistrust, the bridges built by music and dance couldn’t be more vital to world peace.

The National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique made its U.S. debut in 1998 with standing-ovation performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. This Saturday, Feb. 2, the company will perform its repertory of traditional and contemporary dance at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.

This program is the third in a series of six dance programs in the center’s World of Dance series, which includes companies from Montreal, the Middle East, Jamaica, Russia and the United States.

The Company of Mozambique is made up of 30 dancers and 10 musicians led by general director David Abilio Mondlane and artistic director Augusto Mateus Cuvilas. In a telephone interview from Mozambique, Mondlane told GO Brooklyn that the Brooklyn Center performance will feature two dance suites, "N’tsay" and "In Mozambique, the Sun Has Risen."

"N’tsay," choreographed by Mondlane in 1986, tells the story of Mozambique and the rest of Africa in music and dance. Mozambique, located in southeast Africa, was colonized by the Portuguese in 1505 and was granted its independence in 1975.

"The dance tells how [Africans] lived before Europeans came and what Europeans did to divide and dominate Africa," said Mondlane. "It shows how slaves were taken from Africa to places all over the world and the struggle for freedom in Africa.

"When you see the piece, you clearly understand what everything means," he said.

"In Mozambique, the Sun Has Risen" is a series of traditional dances from different ethnic groups in Mozambique. "Tufo" is a dance of women that comes from the northern part of the country and shows a strong Arabic influence. "Xigubo" is a warrior’s dance from southern Mozambique.

Both "In Mozambique" and "N’tsay" will be performed to live accompaniment on the marimba, a kind of African xylophone, and various African drums.

In 1979, just four years after Mozambique won its independence, a group of young, talented artists from the capital of Maputo, established an amateur dance group under the auspices of the National Directorate for Culture. Out of this group grew the professional company known as the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique.

Today, the company’s performances in Mozambique reach more than 300,000 people annually. In addition, the company regularly tours abroad, receiving critical acclaim. A junior company trains dancers and tours as well.

Dancers in the national company study all over the world, Mondlane said. The company also plays host to internationally known artists in Maputo, where it has its own 1,200-seat theater. Max Luna, a choreographer who worked with the Alvin Ailey Company, and Jawola, artistic director of Urban Bush Women, are two such artists.

In fact, Jawola is currently working on a piece called "Night Girl" with the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique, said Mondlane. The piece is sponsored by the Lincoln Center Institute and scheduled for a premiere at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center next November.

In the meantime, Mondlane is enthusiastic about his upcoming performance in Brooklyn.

"Wait till you see it," he said. "It’s not just traditional dance. It’s very professional. Our dancers also study ballet and contemporary dance. It’s not what you expect."

On Saturday, expect the unexpected.

 

The National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique will perform "N’tsay" and "In Mozambique, The Sun Has Risen" on Feb. 2 at 8 pm. Tickets are $30. All Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts performances are held at the Walt Whitman Theater, Brooklyn College (one block from the junction of Flatbush and Nostrand avenues). For more information, call (718) 951-4500 or fax (718) 951-4437.

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