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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Spirit of Uganda preview

The Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts has been home to many dramatic and cultural performances throughout the years. The upcoming performance Spirit of Uganda is no less pertinent.

Touring every two years, Spirit of Uganda will begin its tour in the Mondavi Center on Jan. 24, with the performance at 3 p.m. Activities include students’ shows, classes as well as a kid-to-kid lunch and play. Regular tickets range from $25 to $45, while student tickets range from $12.50 to $22.50.

“The 22 young people in our company have lost one or both parents to AIDS or to the rebels,” said Alexis Hefley, founder and executive officer of the program. “Education for these kids was impossible.”

These children are the Ambassadors for Uganda’s representing millions of orphaned and underprivileged children. The program showcases a wide array of authentic performances from the East African region. The young people who range from ages of nine to 20 will be the performers and will all work together as a team to provide cultural awareness of dual causes of AIDS and the tragedy of civil war. Their activities also raise funds that support children, sponsored by Empower African Children, a non-profit organization.

Choreographed by artistic director Peter Kasule, an alumnus of the program, the show will run throughout North America. It will culminate with a performance as part of the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver, an arts festival that coincides with the Olympics each time they are held. The vivid program of music and dancing provides an all-ages show that is sure to please.

“Music and dance in Uganda are fluid and dynamic,” Kasule said in a press release, “a shifting mix of traditional and new forms that celebrates the country’s rich and multiple heritages and embody the connections among people across borders.”

Spirit of Uganda started over a decade ago from Hefley’s visit to an orphanage in Uganda, where a nun was training a small dance company of children.

“I remember thinking to myself, what if my friends could see this,” she said.

From there, Hefley launched Empowering African Children and initiated and produced award-winning and critically acclaimed Children of Uganda. She said the transforming power of the arts exemplifies what is possible if you give children the resources to express themselves.

Their 2008 tour, sponsored by Macy’s, brought in rave reviews and achieved awareness of Empowering African Children’s causes.

“The group of children is a mixture of people who have previously toured and about 11 children who have never been to the U.S. before.” said Pat Kirby, company director. “Several of the dances are different and there are some traditional dances where the music is a bit different this time.” For more information on Spirit of Uganda and Empower Africa’s Children go to empowerafricanchildren.org

ANASTASIA ZHURAVLEVA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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