African Rhythms

A dance troupe shimmies for literacy in Ethiopia.

The Mesgana Dancers, who'll star in a benefit performance tonight and tomorrow, consist of Ethiopian girls ages seven to ten. Nonetheless, they're handling the shock of touring a country totally unlike their own "with great aplomb," says Jane Kurtz, the board president of Denver-based Ethiopia Reads, which is co-sponsoring the appearance. "They're definitely encountering things they've never seen before — in some cases electric lights, let alone all the TV channels. But they seem amazingly poised and calm." As such, she feels the dancers are "great ambassadors for showing people the very kids who are getting a chance at an education" through the joint efforts of Ethiopia Reads and another organization, the Children of Ethiopia Educational Fund.

Kurtz, who spent most of her formative years in Ethiopia, knows firsthand how few kids there get a chance to attend school — and those who do often find themselves in facilities critically short of books, paper and writing utensils. The dancers are raising money to improve the situation via an entertaining production highlighting the region's vibrant culture. "Here in America, the news in Ethiopia tends to focus on sad things," Kurtz notes. "So I love that these girls are showing the music, the dancing and the rich tradition."

The Mesgana Dancers perform at 7 p.m. tonight at East High School, 1545 Detroit Street, and at the same time tomorrow at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road in Boulder. Tickets are $20 per show for adults, $10 for youth ages twelve and under. For info, phone 303-355-2919 or visit www.ethiopiareads.org.

 
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