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Potpourri of the Arts celebrates 45th anniversary of the African American Arts Institute


Members of the African American Dance Company pose at the end of a performance Nov. 9 at the IU Auditorium. The dance was part of Potpourri of the Arts and was choreographed by Stafford C. Berry Jr. Anna Brown

Potpourri of the Arts began in complete darkness after an introduction from host Bootsy Collins. In the moments before, cheers grew louder from the audience in anticipation before the curtain had even begun to lift off the stage. 

The Potpourri is an annual celebration organized by IU’s African American Arts Institute, which celebrated its 45th anniversary this year. It took place in the IU Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and the performance showcased its three main ensembles: African American Dance Company, African American Choral Ensemble and the IU Soul Revue. 

“There’s such a broad range of groups who performed,” audience member and IU senior Damilola Fasipe said. “(I enjoyed) how engaged the audience was and how connected all the ensembles were. I really got the sense that this is a big family.”

Each ensemble shared performances from many different countries and time periods. The AADC, directed by Stafford C. Berry Jr., opened with a South African Gumboot Dance and later mixed in more contemporary choreography in other pieces such as “Ain’t Like Mine” choreographed this year by Berry Jr.

“I really felt the history of the AAAI here at IU,” Fasipe said. “I could see the cross-cultural connections they made just after diaspora. I’m African myself and I love seeing stuff like that.”

The second group to appear on stage was the AACE, which is directed by Raymond Wise, who is also the associate director of the AAAI. 

During the Choral Ensemble’s final performance of “Oh Happy Day,” the crowd rose to stand and sing as Wise shouted out to them to join under the glimmering lights darting to and from the stage. 

“What sticks out to me the most was the energy of the crowd,” Fasipe said. “You feel like you’re part of the performance. The room was just teeming with energy and it felt like the area between the stage and the audience evaporates for a moment and we’re all there together.”

Intermissions followed after each ensemble exited the stage. The final group to perform was the Soul Revue directed by James Strong. The group chose more modern pieces such as “Talk” by Khalid and “That’s What Love Can Do” by Robin Thicke.

The finale of the night consisted of a newly arranged rendition of the IU fight song by Bootsy Collins. Before its debut live performance, Collins accepted a Bicentennial Medal on stage explaining that he saw hope at IU. 

“We all are one,” Collins said. “This is so nice and I’m just a long-haired sucker from down the street.”

After his brief words, Collins ushered members of the Marching Hundred onto the stage as the audience got up on their feet and clapped along to the words sung by the Soul Revue. 

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