In most cases, plays and performances are designed for the benefit of the audience. One local production, however, was initially created for the cultural education of the young performers on the stage.
“Africa: Music, Culture, Dance” takes its audience on a journey of the development of African culture, ranging from modern-day music and poems to traditional African drums and dancing. The first half of the show begins with dances set to music that can be heard on the radio today. It then descends through the decades with music covering genres like hip hop, pop, Motown, jazz and even Broadway.
The second half of the show consists of mostly traditional numbers with African drum performances as well as cultural music and dancing. The production includes the famous Warrior Dance, Jambo, Battu and Waka Waka. The hundreds of brightly patterned green, orange and yellow costumes add to the performance’s authenticity.
April Berlin, operations and marketing manager at SCERA theater, recognizes the value of this performance because of the opportunity it gives children to learn about their heritage.
“We’re very excited to have this performance at SCERA because of traditional and cultural values it highlights,” Berlin said. “The show features a wide range of cultural dances and music that spans from ancient to modern day. The children in each of the performances gives the entire show an interesting angle.”
The performers involved in the production all belong to the Elikya Dance and Drum Company, with children ranging from ages 4 to 18. Jennifer Stott, director-president of Elikya, said she believes the first priority of the company is to educate not only those they perform for, but the children involved.
“When I moved to Utah from Detroit, I noticed many African children who were adopted and knew nothing of their heritage,” Stott said. “That’s what started everything. I believe the first goal of Elikya is to teach these children about where they come from. Our second goal is to then educate the people of Utah.”
The Elikya Dance and Drum Company has performed all over Utah, including in the Tuacahn Amphitheater.
“The kids who are involved in the dance company are very talented and very dedicated,” Stott said. “We require that they be able to travel and spend a lot of time practicing, especially with black history month coming up. We have some great performances scheduled.”
Staff at the SCERA are excited to showcase this performance and said they believe it will add to the diversity of performances shown at the theater.
“This show is extremely unique to SCERA because it is a group of very young dancers that are highlighting their culture for an audience while learning about it themselves,” said Shawn Mortensen, SCERA’s production and program manager. “At SCERA, we love to feature cultural events and people have seemed to really embrace this show.”
“Africa: Music, Culture, Dance” is playing now through Jan. 14 on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.