Find your rhythm at DanceAfrica Denver this weekend

Dr. Charles "Baba Chuck" Davis founded DanceAfrica almost four decades ago as a unique celebration of Africa and its diaspora. For the next two weekends, DanceAfrica will partner for the third time with the forty-year-old Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble on DanceAfrica Denver, which will feature not just performances of In the Valley of the Nile, a dance summoning the prowess of ancient African queens, but a craft market and tastes of authentic African cuisine.

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The celebration kicks off on Friday, May 10, with some Zimbabwean flair. Call-and-response drumming, traditional African dancing and singing, dance workshops and a market inspired by the open-air markets of Africa, with both authentic foods and crafts, will continue through the weekend. The market will open at 5 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday; you can browse and enjoy the entertainment for free. But DanceAfrica Denver is hoping you'll buy tickets performances of In the Valley of the Nile , featuring music from internationally-acclaimed composer Halim El-Dabb, at 7 p.m. Friday and 1:30 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

The following weekend offers similar events -- dancing, drumming, singing, workshops and an open-air market -- that pay homage to West African cultures and traditions, as well as four more performances of In the Valley of the Nile. Each show begins with a libation-pouring ceremony and ends with a vibrant "sente," a celebration with audience participation.

"This is one of the most exciting art events in the Denver community," says Mary Hart, director of bookings and sales at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. "Almost everyone throughout history has crossed through Africa." In honor of that, she adds, people attending any of the DanceAfrica Denver activities are encouraged to honor their own ancestors by wearing traditional garb from their culture of origin.

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The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater is located at 119 Park Ave. West. Tickets for individual performances (which include accompanying activities at the facility) are $40 for adults and $35 for children, students and seniors. To purchase tickets, go to the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance website or call the box office at 303-295-1759 ext. 13.

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