Moving to a Different Rhythm Instructor Brings African Dances to Lake College

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Byline: Gwen H. Jader Daily Herald Correspondent

On a mission to spread the word about African dance and culture, Vaune Blalock journeys from Chicago's Muntu Dance Theatre to the College of Lake County each week to teach a class in African dance.

Trained at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York, Blalock grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended the School for Creative & Performing Arts there.

She also has worked as a wardrobe supervisor and costume designer for the Dansi Dance Company and the Alvin Ailey Repertory and now is a program administrator at the Muntu Dance Theatre.

"I want to institutionalize African dance as a dance form, just as you would take classes in ballet, modern or jazz. For that reason, we wear traditional African attire and dance to drums performed live," the 41-year-old dancer said.

The class is held from 5:45 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and consists of a one-and-a-half hour warm-up, followed by dance routines and a session about the history and culture of African dance. Senegal drummer YaYa Kabo provides the rhythmic beat that drives the class.

Students also have been assigned homework in preparation for a studio presentation at the end of the semester. Each is to sing a song about an ancestor.

About 16 students, including those who are pursuing a career in dance, as well as those looking for a good workout, took the class on a recent Tuesday evening.

"It's a very interesting class and the live drummer makes it exciting," said Geena Williams of North Chicago, a second-year student who recently changed her major from mechanical engineering to dance. …