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Colombian culture captured in music, song and folk dance

An explosion of Colombian culture in the form of music, song and stylized folk dance burst forth onto UB's Center for the Arts' Mainstage Theatre Tuesday night in Ballet Folklorico De Antioquia, Colombia's highly charged and entertaining program MAPALE.

The 20-member dance troupe, along with a nine-member live band featuring potent vocalist Christina Escamilla, offered up traditional folk and street festival dances mixed with social dances and a few reflecting Colombia's diverse cultural influences.

The program's first half reflected that mix in seven numbers each introduced by poetic narration and highlighted by several works including the acrobatic "San Agustin," featuring a balletic pas de deux filled with daredevil partnering.

It was followed by the vibrant "Joropo," where a large group of male dancers costumed as Colombian cowboys (or Llanero) partnered their equally festively costumed female counterparts in a rapid-fire dance with a Salsa flavor. It was filled with quick turns and fast footwork.

Also of note in the program's first half were the dance works "Tambora," featuring the company's women in long skirts that they gathered in their hands to look like angel's wings, then flapped and whipped about to the cat calls of several male dancers. And there was the Afro-Colombian showstopper "Mapale," a scantily costumed, hip-gyrating, booty-shaking, sexually charged, frenetic and ritualistic dance that had pulses racing and eyes fixed on the stage.

MAPALE's second half featured a similar mix to the first, along with several music only numbers that involved audience participation. In the comedic mountain dance "Pasillo Voliao," several couples engaged in a zany dance that can only be described as a cross between a waltz on steroids and the "chicken dance." The wild dancing and slapstick antics and mugging of the dancers was delightful and endearing.

Also memorable in the second half's dozen plus numbers was "Comparsa del Carnaval," a dance work evoking the pageantry of Carnaval complete with colorful and form-fitting costumes including feathered headdresses. Its toe-tapping music and exhilarating choreography drew joyous praise from the audience.

Rounding out the program were several Salsa numbers that included an elegant ballroom-styled number.

In the end, MAPALE was an intriguing and entertaining blend of wholesome traditional folk dance mixed with a healthy dose of sexy and exotic dance works that together showcased Colombia's rich cultural diversity.

> CONCERT REVIEW

Ballet Folklorico de Antioquia Colombia

Tuesday evening in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, North Campus, Amherst.