‘African Footprint’ an impressive show not to be missed

The cast of “African Footprint” told its Proctors audience, “We are the children of Africa. We are t
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The cast of “African Footprint” told its Proctors audience, “We are the children of Africa. We are the future of Africa.”

If that is the case, then Africa is in good hands because this ensemble of versatile dancers, singers and musicians overflows with love, joy and exuberance.

Though the house on Wednesday night at Proctors was not even half full, the 30 young performers exuded so much charm and vivacity that one would think they were dancing for a crowd of thousands. As a result, this 90-minute survey of African artistry was astonishing for its beauty, color and power to touch.

“African Footprint” has been dubbed South Africa’s answer to “Riverdance.” The comparisons are understandable. Ireland and Africa are both rooted in a culture rich in dance and music. “African Footprint,” like “Riverdance,” simmers in fantastic music (composer and lyricist Dave Pollecutt), dance (choreographers Debbie Rakusin and David Matamela) and text (poet Don Mattera). And though “Riverdance” incorporates tap and flamenco, the Irish performers don’t dare try their feet at either.

Not so in “African Footprint.” These dancers do it all — traditional African dance, tap, modern, gumboot and pop moves — all for a suite of showstoppers.

Among the best numbers was the stick dance, the very dance that launched the entire show. Wielding drumsticks, dancers pounded them on the floor or bashed themselves against each other, creating a bounty of rhythm.

Another stunner was the battle between tap and gumboot dancers. Facing off, one group in yellow, the other in red, they challenged each other’s sound and tempo. The tappers marched like soldiers, while the gumboot dancers, who must slap their boots to make their rhythm, were hunched like cats ready to spring on prey.

Dancers, musicians and singers came together in even larger numbers. The jazz segment, with a cityscape in the background, had some high-heeled women dipping and sliding for dapper and dashing men. Singers and a saxophonist, walking among them, urged them on with their soulful sounds while a band played upstage.

The cast, and some in the front rows, had the most fun with the soccer exposition. The performers were hidden behind screens, so the only things visible were feet and bouncing balls. The pulse of the bobbing balls built suspense, and then the entire cast burst out in a splashy homage, with pop and hip-hop moves, to the popular sport.

A few balls were tossed out to the crowd. That drew a few screeches of surprise. When they were thrown back at the stage, the performers nimbly caught them without missing a step.

Creator Richard Loring did a fine job including both traditional and modern, giving a sense of where Africa was and where it is going. But perhaps the most important thing he has done with this show is send a positive message that all people are one. As the singers intoned “You’re the Same As I,” one had to feel, if not moved, connected to people half a world away. That’s a good thing.

“African Footprint” will be repeated at 8 tonight at Proctors. Don’t miss it.

Categories: Life and Arts

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