ZIVIO ETHNIC ARTS ENSEMBLE, with guest artists; Kingsbury Hall, April 1 at 8 p.m.
After an evening devoted to dancing, singing, laughing and eating with Zivio, sampling the spirit of a dozen different folk cultures, you kind of walk away on air. Beneath all the burdens and worries of everyday life, there's a life force screaming to get out; and it's that universal instinct to celebrate the wonder of life that Zivio addresses. But what else would you expect from a company whose name means "To Life!"Zivio is most consistently dedicated to the Slavic cultures of eastern and southeastern Europe, their music, instruments and dancing. But this concert included an evocative segment from the Middle East and a rip-snorting suite of western American dance, which the ensemble will dance in Hungary this summer.
Music is as much a concern as dance, and instruments that are authentic, often exotic, added greatly to the overall effect. A good chorus led by Courtney Ajioka caught that certan nasal sound one associates with eastern music - sometimes playful, sometimes mournful - while making it palatable to western ears. Singers mixed and matched skillfully in varied song suites from eastern Europe and even India, and colorful costumes were often quite beautiful.
In a program that seemed to be just what you wanted to see and hear, the dancers warmed up with dances from Croatia and Yugoslavia, then launched into two outstanding premieres by Steven Kotansky, combining folk feeling and professionalism.
Croatian dance from Lakocsa featured the virile-looking men in a line dance that broke up into a boot-slapping display of acrobatics and concentration, with a few star performers, complemented by music of the tamburitza and duda, an intriguing bagpipe made of hairy goatskin.
Kotansky's Romany (Gypsy) Suite, accompanied by "rolling" vocals and instruments, caught the pungent excitement of this roving people and built to a fair orgy of movement as dancers first competed, then responded en masse to the accelerating rhythm and intensity. A Hungarian Suite of slow and fast czardas with gypsy string orchestra featured some of the evening's fanciest footwork and graceful whirling.
Turning to the Middle East, the women in draperies and traditional veils visited Afghanistan for a clapping dance, the national folk dance Atan, and a stick dance, with a fair degree of eastern naivete and mystery. Accompaniment was by the exciting, exotic instruments of Sangita.
Home again for the grand finale, Zivio showed that they can step off the folk rhythms of America with the best of them. With music by the spirited Buckle Busters, they broke into a western suite of circle two-step, cowboy polka and a jamming swing set to "Springtime in the Rockies" in 4/4 time. From Appalachia came a Kentucky running set and from the Carolinas, a Big Circle Clog that brought out the rug-cutting, extroverted ham in more than one dancer.