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Special ‘Dane Dances!’ to benefit student scholarships

February 15, 2007 By Gwen Evans

Dane Dances!, the city’s popular summer rooftop dance party, moves inside at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, for a special benefit event in Great Hall in the Memorial Union at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Milwaukee’s In Black N’ White will heat it up with soul, rock and reggae, and SambaDa, from California, will keep it lively with infectious Afro-Brazilian samba funk dance grooves.

The event, DanceFest, is a benefit for scholarships for First Wave students, an urban arts and spoken word residential learning community opening this fall at UW–Madison. Tickets are $10 for students with ID, $20 for adults; both are available at the Union Theater Box Office, (608) 262-2201.

DanceFest is organized by the university’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI). Dane Dances! is partnering with OMAI to present DanceFest because of the shared goals of both organizations: creating an environment where diversity and understanding are nurtured and celebrated.

Now in its eighth season, Dane Dances! are held Friday nights in August on the Monona Terrace rooftop, bringing together people from many racial, ethnic and social backgrounds to create appreciation and respect for the diverse Dane County community. Each year, thousands attend the family friendly events for dancing and shared community.

DanceFest is just one highlight of Line Breaks, a free lecture and performance series of spoken word and hip-hop that runs through Monday, April 16. The series features spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph and friends.

Bamuthi, an internationally acclaimed spoken-word artist, will be at UW–Madison this spring through the Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program. He was invited to participate in the residency through OMAI, with co-sponsorship from the Department of Afro-American Studies and numerous other campus units. In addition to performing, he will teach a course on writing and performing spoken word and hip-hop theater.

He will be joined for Line Breaks by some of the hottest artists working in spoken literary arts in a showcase of the country’s freshest voices on Monday nights. Performance dates and artists include:

— Feb. 26: Rennie Harris, an award-winning choreographer, and Jeff Chang, an American Book Award winner and author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation”

— March 5: Alix Olson, an artist-activist specializing in the queer spoken word genre

— March 12: Kamilah Forbes, executive producer of Russell Simmons’ HBO “Def Poetry”

— March 19: Danny Hoch, who received an Obie Award and is co-founder of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival

— March 26: Dennis Kim, lead MC of Chicago’s Typical Cats, and Mayda del Valle, star of the Tony Award-winning “Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry on Broadway”

— April 9: Lauren Whitehead, an acclaimed spoken-word artist

— April 16: Rafael Casal and Dahlak Brathwaite, Youth Speaks spoken-word stars.

All these Monday lectures and performances take place at 7 p.m. at the Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State St., and all are free.

A second benefit for First Wave scholarships will close out the Line Breaks series with a performance by Omar Sosa and his Afreecanos Quartet in Music Hall at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 26. Sosa is a composer, arranger, producer, pianist, percussionist and bandleader. He fuses jazz, world and electronic music with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original urban sound — all with a Latin jazz heart. General admission tickets are $25, $10 for students, available at the Union Theater Box Office.

UW–Madison is becoming known as a leader in the national youth spoken word movement because OMAI, which resides in the School of Education and is the only office of its kind at any institution of higher education, established Youth Speaks Wisconsin, a local unit of the national Youth Speaks organization. Youth Speaks uses the literary arts to enhance education and encourage civic engagement and challenges youth to become critical thinkers. OMAI’s success in recruiting and nurturing teens with academic and spoken-word artistic talent through Youth Speaks Wisconsin has produced this fall’s inaugural class of the First Wave learning community.