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'Potpourri of the Arts' celebrates African culture and diversity



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African American Choral Ensemble Director Dr. Raymond Wise directs the ensemble during Potpourri of the Arts on Nov. 11, 2017, at the IU Auditorium.  The African American Arts Institute will present the 25th anniversary, “Potpourri of the Arts in the African American Tradition” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 10.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Celebrating both diversity and unity, the African American Arts Institute will present the 25th anniversary performance of, “Potpourri of the Arts in the African American Tradition” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 10. 

The performance will feature AAAI’s three performing ensembles: the African American Dance Company directed by Stafford C. Berry, Jr., the African American Choral Ensemble directed by Raymond Wise, and the IU Soul Revue directed by James Strong.

The African American Dance Company will present works displaying African American and African diaspora culture, including pieces in contemporary, jazz, African, hip-hop and other styles. 

Samantha Hyde, a master’s student in library and information science who performs with the AADC, said that Berry’s works “Mas(k)ulinities” and “Dance Diansa” explore gender and Lamaban rhythm and movement from Mali, respectively. 

The IU Soul Revue will present secular, popular works in soul, funk, rhythm and blues and the African American Chorale Ensemble will perform spirituals and gospels. 

Daryl Soo, a graduate student in the Kelley School who performs with the IU Soul review said that students are lucky to perform under Strong, a 20-year veteran of the music industry.

“He holds us to the standards by which he was held to while he performed with world class talent and learning to strive for that level of professionalism and musicianship is what makes Soul Revue performances a one-of-a-kind experience,” Soo said in an email. 

The annual tradition began in 1993 to show off the capabilities of AAAI’s different performing ensembles. It played for many years at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater before coming to IU Auditorium.

“This is a mixture of several things to give a great fragrance of the arts,” Wise said. 

Wise said the concert is really three different performances brought together, as each of the ensembles will perform separately to explore the theme of connectedness. 

However, all three ensembles will perform together for the finale, “Saliyah: Connected to the Past, Present, and Future.” The finale will feature West African chants, an original song “Connected,” and excerpts of the Wakanda theme from the Afro-futuristic film “Black Panther.”

Wise said that he hopes audiences will come away from the performance understanding more about African American culture and witness a display of unity. 

“We often say, as a society, that we can’t come together, that we won’t come together,” Wise said. “But when you see our ensembles and you see us singing together and working together, we’re one of the greatest examples that we as humans can come together.”

Strong said that he hopes people will come to the show to support the arts and diversity.

“The arts can be a life saver,” Strong said. “You got talented folks who don’t have an outlet. Sometimes they have a talent that is not understood by the average person, maybe not even by their own family. But once the student or kid finds that one outlet, it can mean the world to him.”

Charles Sykes, executive director of the IU African American Arts Institute, said that “Potpourri of the Arts” has something for everyone. 

“The Potpourri features an incredibly broad range of music and dance, representing hundreds of years of the African American experience, performed by some of the most talented students on the Bloomington campus,” Sykes said in a press release. “For 25 years, the Potpourri has entertained, inspired, and touched the souls of countless people.”

Doug Booher, executive director of IU Auditorium, also said he looks forward to the performance. 

“Their combined efforts create a truly spectacular presentation of the powerful spirit and tradition of African American performance,” Booher said in a press release. “This show is unique in the fact that the energy is almost infectious — so much so that the audience can’t help but join in the celebration.”

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