If you've stepped onto a dance floor lately, chances are you cut the rug with a dance that has some St. Louis ties. But long before our city's hip-hop heroes spread homegrown dances like the Monastery, or Mono, to America via their music videos, longtime East St. Louis resident Katherine Dunham developed her famous method.
Emphasizing flexibility of the spine and torso and isolation of the limbs -- much like the aforementioned Mono, which involves lots of shoulder-popping -- the Katherine Dunham Technique combines elements of modern dance and ballet with Afro-Caribbean styles of movement.
The West Indian Folk Dance Company, whose dancers are well-versed in the Dunham Technique, will be in concert at the Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-935-6543) to cap off Black Dance-USA, a week of lectures and dance workshops for adults and kids sponsored by the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) and Better Family Life.
The West Indian Folk ensemble, which moved from Jamaica to Chicago in 1978, highlights the West African historic, religious and social influences on Caribbean dance styles. These form the foundation of many popular dances of today, such as the limbo (which, according to legend, originated on slave ships but somehow became a mainstay of company picnics and family reunions). And of course, no good Caribbean dance performance would be complete without music from the islands -- the West Indian Folk Dance Company performs to the Haitian and Jamaican rhythms of reggae, soca, calypso and firedance.
The concert, which will be followed by a reception, begins at 8 p.m. and tickets cost between $20 and $25. For more information on Black Dance-USA, contact Better Family Life at 314-367-3440 or visit www.betterfamilylife.org. -- R. L. Nave
In his famous poem A Dream Deferred, Joplin-born Langston Hughes rhetorically asked what happens when a person puts off an aspiration. Hughes worried, "Does it dry up/Like a raisin in the sun?" That fear is precisely what's captured in the St. Louis Black Repertory Company's production of the Tony Award-winning musical Raisin. In this show, the members of the Younger family grapple with moving up and out of their southside Chicago home and achieving their goals. Catch the final show of the Rep's season at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grand Boulevard; 314-534-3810 or www.stlouisblackrep.org) Friday, May 28, through June 26. Tickets range from $10 to $37.50, and performances are held Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. -- Alison Sieloff
Mother Knows Best
Fans of the Bravo series Showbiz Moms & Dads may find the classic musical Gypsy to their liking; Mama Rose is something of a driven stage mother, but instead of screaming at her child when Fate foils her plans, she sings her anger and anguish. And buddy, some of those songs are absolute killers; "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn" remain showstoppers even after 50-plus years. Gypsy opens Stages St. Louis' new season, dubbed the "classic" season (the other two shows will be The Sound of Music and Camelot), at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 28, and continues through June 27 (visit www.stagesstlouis.com for the full schedule). All performances are at the Kirkwood Civic Center (111 South Geyer Road; 314-821-2407), and tickets are $39. -- Paul Friswold
We Do Like It
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is an opportunity to engage in total sensory overload. Imagine yourself in Forest Park in the hastening twilight, the air cooling slightly, reclining on a blanket in the grass while the insects chirp and the honeysuckle swirls through the waiting crowd. And then, from the stage, the lights come up and people speak the sinuous lines of poetry that have survived for 400 years -- and will no doubt endure for another 400. Does life offer a greater sense of the wonders of living than this moment? As You Like It, one of Shakespeare's gentler comedies, plays nightly at 8 p.m. from Friday, May 28, through June 20 (there will be no performances on Tuesday, June 1 and 8, or Thursday, June 17), just east of Art Hill. Call 314-361-0101 or visit www.sfstl.org for more information. -- Paul Friswold