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Driven to dance Groups overcome funding woes to revive recital

Like many artists these days, Janet Reed and Marvin Askew's desire to express their art is tempered by funding available to do so. That lack of funding has meant that they and their respective groups -- Janet Reed & Dancers and Buffalo City Ballet -- have had to curtail the number of public performances they offer each year. One such program was the joint annual celebration of Black History Month. This weekend at Buffalo State College's Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall, that program returns after a four-year hiatus as the two dance companies present "Driven."

"We miss doing the Black History Month program," Reed said. "When we don't have it in our season, it is like one of our legs is missing."

A professor at Buffalo State, Reed's work is known nationally. Her choreography is rhythmic and inventive and often defies predictability.

"I never get too deep about anything," said Reed. "I just like dance for the sake of moving with music and making patterns."

This weekend's joint program will feature seven dance works with styles ranging from ballet and modern to jazz and African. Reed and dancers will present three repertory works: 1996's "Rhythm Hunters," a fast-paced swirling groove-fest that Reed describes as "like minds seeking common movement threads"; 1998's "Standing on Shaky Ground: Yet, She Dances With Abandon Against the Turbulent Sea," a work about time, rhythm and the struggle between the two; and 2002's "SpiritChasers." Reed sees "SpiritChasers" as "masses uniting in praise of humanity's need for deeper fulfillment through spirituality." The group work begins with the haunting sounds of an Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo, then it moves into semi-ritualistic choreography set to the music of Dead Can Dance.

For Buffalo City Ballet artistic director Askew, the Black History Month program has been an opportunity to choreograph, which is something he loves and rarely gets to do. Askew has put together four original "works in progress" for "Driven": a solo, a duet and two group dances set to the music of Stevie Wonder. The works will feature a half dozen of the ballet's student dancers.

More than just the title of this weekend's program, "Driven" speaks to Reed and Askew's unrelenting pursuit of their art. Despite a general lack of funding -- and the two of them having to wear a number of hats from administrative to artistic for their respective groups to exist -- Reed and Askew continue to make art. In this weekend's program, we get to see them and their respective dance companies do what they do best: perform.

PREVIEW

WHAT: "Driven," presented by Janet Reed & Dancers and Buffalo City Ballet

WHEN: 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday

WHERE: The Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

TICKETS: $14 to $16

INFO: 878-3005 or www.buffalostate.edu/pac

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