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COBA - School
COBA's company in 'Orisha Suite'
COBA:Reviews
THE GLOBE AND MAIL SATURDAY, MAY 2, 1998 DANCE REVIEW, DANSE BELE SENSUAL DANCE SHAPED BY SLAVERY COLLECTIVE OF BLACK ARTISTS REVIEWED BY DEIRDRE KELLY

DANSE Belé, a vibrant piece inspired by dancer Eddison Lindsay's native Trinidad as much anthropology as it is choreography. Lindsay, who performs the 90-minute intermissionless with about a dozen members of Toronto based Collective of Black Artists company, has created at exciting showcase of Caribbean dance augmented by live percussion and vocals. The premise is to present a variegated portrait of Caribbean culture through its dance and music. The troupe, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, pulls it off with an athletically energetic performance that is parts mystery, drama and sensuality.

Photo of BaKari E. Lindsay, co-founder of COBA, the Collective of Black Artists

COBA dancer and co-founder Charmaine Headley provides a running commentary that includes historical information about the genesis and development of Trinidadian dance, drumming and language. Her direct address to the audience is sometimes preachy. In Canada, she says, Caribbean culture is regarded as "a ghetto community thing." As such, the general population has tended to over-look its rich and multifaceted heritage. Ignorance has led people to label island culture as African. "But it is not Afro anything," argues Headley. "It is indigenously Caribbean."

While the show undoubtedly speaks for itself, the point is well taken. For most people, Caribbean dance is limbo and one too many glasses of rum punch. To counter these and other stereotypes, Lindsay and Headley co-founded COBA 1993 as a vehicle for unadulterated forms of Caribbean dance, music and ritual. Danse Belé returning to the stage following its debut in 1995, is a perfect representation of the troupe's ambitions. The program features four distinct dance pieces, each shaped and influenced by West Indian slavery. The most fascinating is La Belle Vie, a hybrid dance form created when Caribbean house slaves appropriated the minuet of their masters. They also borrowed aspects of their dress, incorporating strings of pearls, tartan fabrics and stiff headdresses into their own clothes. The dance the costume and the music (congas and a violin) amply speak to the richness of Caribbean culture.

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