Spring concert series showcases ensembles of IU’s African American Arts Institute


The African American Dance Company, shown here performing in “Potpourri,” will present its spring concert Saturday. Photo courtesy of Iris Rosa.

Post courtesy of newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

Throughout the month of April, the three ensembles of Indiana University’s African American Arts Institute will host their annual spring concerts.

The central mission of the institute is the preservation and celebration of African American culture. IU students across many areas of study participate in its performance groups as a way of connecting to that culture and sharing it with wider audiences.

The African American Dance Company will present the first concert Saturday, April 9. IU Soul Revue will perform April 16 and the African American Choral Ensemble will host a special 40th anniversary celebration April 30.

All three events will begin at 8 p.m. at Bloomington’s Buskirk-Chumley Theater. For each one of the shows, tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children and students with an ID.

African American Dance Company

Professor Iris Rosa, director of the African American Dance Company, said the group addresses the “lived experiences” of the African disapora.

On Saturday, the ensemble will perform “Visions of the Past; Actual Realities,” using two versions of the song “1960 What,” by Gregory Porter. The piece will illustrate urban challenges, from the past fires in Detroit to the current leaded water crisis in Flint, Mich.

Rosa said the dancers’ movements will be supplemented with visuals that help carry the narrative along as the songs “Feeling Good” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” play. These musical selections examine the question of where people “find the spaces for solace and hope,” she said.

Associate instructor Amelia Smith said Rosa uses dance as a common denominator to bring together students and faculty from all walks of life. “We really do come together as a family,” Smith said.

Students have been working groups all semester to create their own choreography that will be featured as part of the performance.

The dancers also will perform a piece that connects traditional dance movements from Rwanda, Senegal and Ghana to modern African American and Caribbean dance styles. Rosa said this promotes awareness among viewers about global dance and rhythms.

“You’re going to see something you’ve never seen before, and you’re going to learn something,” Smith said.

IU Soul Revue

A week later, the IU Soul Revue will take to the stage in what Professor Tyron Cooper described as an eclectic mix of themes and musical styles.

African American Arts Institute - Potpourri 2015. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan)

IU Soul Revue will perform April 16. Photo by Jeremy Hogan

He said some of the pieces selected will inspire the audience to dance, sing and shout, while others will leave them time to reflect on the current state of society.

The audience can expect to hear Motown, some blues, and songs made popular by Curtis Mayfield, The Isley Brothers, Michael Jackson, Jill Scott, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Kendrick Lamar and Earth, Wind and Fire, just to name a few.

Cooper said he hopes the concert will take people on a journey through Black popular music and the experiences that inspire it.

“The hope is that the music will bring us closer together in respect and understanding for our individual and collective realities in humanity,” he said.

African American Choral Ensemble

The last weekend in April, the African American Choral Ensemble will present its spring concert.

Professor Raymond Wise, the group’s leader, said their set will include everything from African spirituals and choral anthems to jazz and gospel songs.

After seeing the ensemble perform while he was in grade school and high school, Nick Philbeck knew he wanted to become a part of it when he was older.

Philbeck said he felt welcome instantly when he joined the group three semesters ago.

African American Arts Institute - Potpourri 2015. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan)

The African American Chorale Ensemble will perform April 30. Photo by Jeremy Hogan

“In a lot of ways, we kind of feel like a family,” he said.

In honor of the ensemble’s 40th anniversary, alumni of the group will also participate.

Being in a group with this kind of legacy is “hugely meaningful,” Philbeck said.

He also said the experience of being an audience member at a Choral Ensemble concert is unlike anything else: “There’s a lot of sharing of energy back and forth between performers and the audience.”

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