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Maria de Barros

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“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” will be performed March 25-30.

MICHAEL J. LUTCH,

Ordway series looks at African and African-American culture

  • February 4, 2014 - 1:49 PM

Rennie Harris Puremovement kicks off a series that puts African and African-American culture center stage at Ordway Center.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday there is a free session on “Hip-hop Philosophy: A Way of Life.” There also are free sessions in b-boying and funk dances (6-7:30 p.m. Wed.), and a master class with the company (6:30-8 p.m. Thu. $10).

The Puremovement show also marks the launch of an exhibit in the Ordway lobby that features the works of artists whose works share themes with those onstage. The works represented are by visual artists Catherine Kennedy, Jacques Elate Joss and Shirley Jones alongside creations by composer and instrument-maker Douglas Ewart.

South African a cappella stars Ladysmith Black Mambazo will do a concert (7:30 p.m. Sun.) introduced by public speaker Naomi Tutu, daughter of that nation’s spiritual leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

On Feb. 19, Senegal-born Cape Verdean chanteuse Maria de Barros comes to the Ordway to sing coladeiras, a calypso-like style of music with a corresponding dance.

The celebration also includes “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” the Tony-winning Broadway musical (March 25-30) and Step Afrika!, a group that fuses black fraternity step shows with African styles (May 31-June 1).

“This festival demonstrates to the community that we are an asset with a range of activities and offerings for everyone,” said Patricia Mitchell, president and CEO of the Ordway, which faced vocal criticism for its 2013 presentation of “Miss Saigon.”

Robin Hickman, who has helped the Ordway with its community-engagement efforts, put the Ordway’s festival in context.

“I know that my friends in the Asian-American community are still hurt behind the ‘Miss Saigon’ stuff, and this does not take away their grief,” she said. “But this is worth celebrating. The Ordway is doing good work here.”

ROHAN PRESTON

© 2014 Star Tribune