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Dance all about love

Jai Hinson, artistic director and founder of Dundu Dole, describes the company's First Night 2007 production as “a combination of Afro, Cuban, Haitian, Brazilian and African dance, music and folklore.”

Published May 20, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG — Dundu Dole Urban African Ballet dancers are preparing for First Night 2007 this week at the Sanderlin Center in St. Petersburg.

The performers are experiencing a first of their own, as they help create a production under the guidance of Kwame Ross, who is the former choreographer for the Brooklyn-based Urban Bush Women dance company.The production is being funded through a $3,000 arts education and outreach grant from the Pinellas County Arts Council.

“It’s a wonderful collaboration. It’s a win-win for the artists, the kids and, of course, the community, who will get to enjoy the performance at First Night,” said Kay Campbell, education and grants services director .Jai Hinson, artistic director and founder of Dundu Dole, describes the performance as “a combination of Afro, Cuban, Haitian, Brazilian and African dance, music and folklore.”

“A lot of the music and rhythms are rooted in African cultural traditions and music, but throughout history, that culture has moved around and evolved and influenced other art forms,” Hinson said.

Hinson said the performance will be one of the most extensive productions Dundu Dole has ever put on. “It’s going to be different. There will be singing, dancing, music, theatrics and poetry — all of those pieces coming together. It’s going to focus on the concept of how we treat each other and being more considerate and more loving to one another,” she said.

Ross, who said this was his first visit to St. Petersburg, said the outline for the piece came from talking to the Dundu Dole dancers.

“I just looked at them and saw the love in this group — love of community, love of self, love of relationships, love of intimacy,” he said.

The performance does not follow a traditional linear narrative, but has a “more abstract plot,” Ross said.

“It’s about taking away the illusion of what love is and allowing oneself to really feel the truth, to truly be engaged in our relationships. When we have truly intimate relationships, we become much more clear and much more responsible. Not just focusing on how to have a healthy relationship with my mate, but with my whole life, my community, my neighbor, my stranger, my Creator,” Ross said.

Ross said he has been impressed with the Dundu Dole performers for their spirit, their openness to new ideas and their ability to be engaged. He said their humility has been especially refreshing.

“There is a magnet that is here (with Dundu Dole). It’s a type of magnet that I find that there is no pretension. They are very honest, humble and respectful,” Ross said.

Ross said he sought input about the show from the performers because it increases their sense of ownership in the work and more accurately reflects the hopes and dreams and realities of living in the Tampa Bay area.

“I’m interested in them speaking in their own voice, of being who they are,” he said.

[Last modified May 20, 2006, 22:16:49]

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