Niles' International Dances Showcase the Whirled
An African drum orchestra and Latin dancers give a funky edge to a menu of the traditional.
As fellow troupe member Christine Krcadinac knotted a scarf under her chin, the African drumbeats of the Maine East Rhythm Project wafted out of the library's large meeting room, where the International Celebration Program was taking place.
Along with Serbian and African cultural offerings, the Niles library program included Latin, Polish, Asian Indian, Irish and Israeli dances. Audience members also got to taste various ethnic foods, provided by local restaurants, during the intermission.
When they returned, Greg Lundberg, a teacher, and students from Maine East High School's Rhythm Project had set up authentic African drums on the stage. They launched into a rollicking percussion concert inspired by the music of Guinea and Mali.
"We don't have any Africans in our group right now, but we are channeling their spirit," said Lundberg, who explained how some of the drums carry the rhythm and others play with melody.
"This is mostly celebration music," he said, giving each of the beaming students an opportunity to solo as the rest of the group kept the rhythm.
Although some of the students just joined the group this year, senior Veni Vijayakumar has been among the members who have been drumming for four years.
Lundberg, who hopes to go to Africa someday, said after the performance that he has studied with many African musicians at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.
Three dancers from the May I Have This Dance studio in Chicago heated things up with sultry Latin dancing. Ira Milton first partnered with Jen Dieas, then Irem Ince in sophisticated moves typically seen on the television program Dancing With the Stars.
Troupe Sloboda performed traditional dances from various regions of Serbia as the finale. Krcadinac's husband Nikola, the choreographer, also introduced his two sons, who were playing the fretted bass and the prim, which is similar to a small banjo or violin. Both are traditional instruments from the Vojvodina region of northern Serbia.
Lakic, a young adult, has been dancing with Serbian troupes since she was 5.
"I love it. It's something I grew up with, something we're used to. Serbians are very traditional," said Lakic, who attends Holy Resurrection Church in Chicago but about 10 minutes south of Niles.
She has visited Serbia's capital of Belgrade twice and speaks the language.
Lily Momirovic, another member of the troupe, said people in Serbia still do these traditional dances.
"Every city has their own dance," she said. "They do them for weddings, festivals and special occasions."
The Natraj Dance Academy also performed Indian dances, the Lajkonik Song and Dance Ensemble represented Polish culture, the McNulty Irish Dancers performed and Shalechet Aviv did graceful as well as boisterous Israeli dances to round out the event.