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Stepping out Dance troupes bring a taste of world culture

There's a great wide world of dance out there, and this week, by some divine coincidence, it's all converging on Western New York.

In four separate internationally flavored dance events, the influence of far-flung cultures will be evident in the movements of dancers from local and foreign troupes and on stages large and small.

"It's almost like a little multicultural dance festival," said Cathy Skora of Buffalo's Folkloric Productions. "But what's fascinating is we didn't plan this."

Skora's troupe of 15 dancers will present a night called

"Mystic Motion," which will draw parallels among the dances of Asia, North Africa, South America and the Middle East.

"What's really interesting is when we look at movement, no matter where we're from, our bodies are basically the same," Skora said. "It's fascinating to look at different movement types from different countries and see the similarities."

The Sufi whirling dance, Skora said, has neighbors in Africa and South America, a connection that can lead to a sort of revelatory experience for viewers from different cultures. And for many, the interconnectedness of human movement reveals a deeper commonality among peoples and cultures that seem to be so disparate on the surface.

"Movement is about far more than the physical," Skora said. "It all had to start somewhere, from a cultural form, so I think it's very important for the public to see these various forms and to think a little bit about their own human condition."

Neglia Ballet, noted for its traditionalist bent, will depart from that image on Wednesday when it hosts popular Japanese mime artist Yass Hakoshima, a former

student of Marcel Marceau. This program, which will include dances from the company's founder Sergio Neglia and a performance from Hakoshima, is meant to draw comparisons between two art forms -- ballet and mime -- that appear vastly different.

The program marks the last event in Buffalo's "Year of Japan" celebration, a series of programs sponsored by the Buffalo-Kanazawa Sister City Committee. Takako Michii, president of the society, thinks of the program as an exploration of the small areas where Japanese dance and ballet intersect.

"It's actually contrasting ballet [with Japanese movement]," Michii said. "Ballet is normally up and down, and Japanese movement is going along with the gravity, so this is more horizontal rather than vertical jumping." Neglia's show will include two varied performances of "Petrushka," and "The Afternoon of a Faun" with interstitial music by Stravinsky performed by Buffalo saxophonist Sal Andolina.

Tonight, a somewhat smaller affair comes to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, with a program of works from local troupe Janet Reed and Dancers. The program from the African-influenced company will include four dances choreographed by Reed.

"I have a different viewpoint. It comes from a very Afro-centric viewpoint blended with ballet and modern," said Reed, who calls her com pany "one of the best-kept secrets in Buffalo."

To cap things off, the Polish song and dance company Mazowsze, 100 strong and well-versed in Eastern European dance styles, music and costumes, will be in town for a two-day stay starting Tuesday. The group claims to represent 39 distinct ethnographic regions of its home country.

Mazowsze performs at Shea's Performing Arts Center (646 Main St.) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Tickets are $27.50 to $49.50. Call 852-5000 for more information or visit www.sheas.org.

Neglia performs "East Meets West" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at UB's Center for the Arts. Tickets are $12 to $24. Call 645-2787 or visit negliaballet.org for more information.

Folkloric Productions performs "Mystic Motion" at 8 p.m. next Friday and Saturday at the Alleyway Theatre (One Curtain Up Alley). Tickets are $18 to $20 and more information can be found at 876-6291.

Janet Reed and Dancers perform a selection of works at 7:30 tonight at the Albright-Knox (1285 Elmwood Ave.) The event is free. Call 882-4828 or visit janetreedanddancers.com for more information.

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