In the theatrical tradition of big song and dance revues, South Africa sends Gumboots to the United States, in the form of a new cast recording and an American tour, beginning Oct. 31.
Gumboots takes its name from a style of dancing developed and expanded during the area of Aparteid. The gumboots dance itself began more than 100 years ago with the tribal men who were chained together in the gold mines of Johannesburg and forbidden to speak to one another. They developed a mode of communication that involved slapping their boots and rattling their chains, which, combined with traditional tribal and European dances, became gumboot dancing.
It was in the 1970's, however, that a woman known as Mrs. Makhudu began training a group of Soweto young men in the protest art of gumboot dancing. Those men became the Rishile Gumboot Dancers of Soweto, the core dancers who created Gumboots with Zenzi Mbuli.
The recording from RCA Victor preserves 22 numbers from the show traditional songs ("Bump Jive," "Uqhuba Isisu," "Shosholoza") and pieces crafted specifically for the show "'The Man Who Stole the Sun," "Egoli, City of Gold" and "I'm Too Sexy"). A PBS documentary on Gumboots is also planned for the December, 2000 Pledge Drive.
The national tour kicks off before then, on Oct. 31 at Green Bay's Weidner Center. It will run there through Nov. 5. Other dates include:
Oct. 31-Nov. 5: Green Bay, WI, Weidner Center
Nov. 7-12: Denver, CO
Nov. 21-Dec. 10: Los Angeles, CA, Wilshire Theatre
Jan. 16-21: Miami, FL, Jackie Gleason Theatre
Jan. 23-29: Stamford, CT
Jan. 30-Feb. 18: Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Parker Playhouse
Feb. 20-March 4: Palm Beach, FL, Royal Poiciana Playhouse
March 20-25: Pittsburgh, PA, Heinz Hall
Runs are planned for Boston and New York, but details are pending. For tickets, contact the city's venue.
-- By Christine Ehren