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Flash Review, 8-27: Funk Bird
Cat Dragons & More from Dha Fuzion

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2002 Peggy H. Cheng

NEW YORK -- At the first of five lunch-hour performances presented by the Battery Dance Company's 21st Annual Downtown Dance Festival, Dha Fuzion, led by Akim Funk Buddha (Artistic Director Akim Ndlovu), drew the crowd at One Chase Manhattan Plaza in with sounds and styles aimed at the group's self-described "new urban mythological musical." Dha Fuzion is a group of musicians, dancers, and dancer/musicians sharing the stage and storytelling, unfolding a few of their world tales in the hopes that this lunchtime journey into the imagination serves as a journey to the creative self as well. The idea is if you find your creative self, you will do better for yourself and others.

Dha Fuzion is in fact a visible and audible fusion -- of people, styles, sounds, cultures -- and it stands to reason that each member is distinguished in her or his sound and movements. Chikako Cat Dragon (the creator and executor of the "Cat Dragon" Style) tap dances, drums and sings; Sister Mami (Mami Nakae) dances in birdlike fashion and drums; Angela - all serpentine and twisty with Eastern-influenced limbs - undulates and slinks, often beside the B-boying lyrical dancer Hypno.

All the time narrated and moved along by Akim Funk Buddha's song, dance, and words, the group travels first through an introductory song into a fable about a bird that danced in a family's garden, magically causing plants to grow and food to appear. Pretty soon, the audience has been asked to give their requests for the bird to dance-up some food, and then, inevitably, the audience members end up on stage dancing with the bird, and all the other characters of the tale. With a special nod to the youngest members of the audience, as well as to the site-specific "Wall Streeters," Dha Fuzion's aim seems to be to bring in the audience through simple tales told through a multitude of sounds and vibrant colorful images.

A highlight of the program was most certainly the Tapping Dragon -- none other than Chikako Cat Dragon herself. First arriving underneath a dragon costume, Chikako eventually reveals herself to be a swift and sure tapping dragon in, of all the footwear out there, the challenging geta. Geta are defined as "a Japanese wooden clog with two transverse supports under the sole, worn outdoors" in Webster's Dictionary. After trading-in the geta for tap shoes, Chikako taps and converses, or taps verses, with the drummer, and then Ndlovu, in a dueling dialogue of rhythm that pleases and heightens the audiences mood even further. Soon enough -- it was bound to happen -- the tapping duel is fused with yet another layer of stage combat in the tradition of a martial arts duel, including nun-chuks and a sword.

Seemingly ever a crowd pleaser, Dha Fuzion's finale includes dancing with giant fans, music that continues to sound the world beat, a few spectacular lifts, and a warm invitation to join them if you have not already.

Downtown Dance Festival performances are outdoors and free, and feature a different dance company on each day of the week (through Friday, from 12:15 to1:30 p.m. at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza (enter at Cedar and Nassau).

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