The rhythm, the dance and the culture of Africa is hitting the stage at the SCERA Center for the Arts from Friday through Jan. 14. The young performers of the Elikya Dance and Drum Company will pay homage to their African-American roots with "Africa!" -- a celebration of music and dance that ranges from traditional African numbers to the modern music of Motown.
Elikya -- which means hope in Swahili -- is made up of approximately 30 local African-American performers who range in age from 4 to 20 years old. Elikya, a nonprofit organization, strives to educate its performers and others about the heritage of black people through history, music and dance.
"We go out to the community and we educate them on the African-American culture and show them the beauty of our culture and who we are as a people," said Jen Stott, founder of Elikya.
Stott formed the group six years ago after moving to Utah from Detroit and noticing that many African-American children who had been adopted into Caucasian families knew little about their roots.
"Where trans-racial adoption is so high and education is so low," Stott said, "I decided that since I can dance and it's something I'm really good at -- I've done it my whole life -- I can use dance to teach students who are adopted into these families about who they are, as a people, and we can use it as a tool to teach the population about who we are."
Sage Service, who acts as the public relations contact and a volunteer with the group, has a 4-year old daughter, Maya, who performs with Elikya. Service said the performing arts group has had a powerful impact on Maya's confidence level and how she sees herself.
"It's had an enormous effect on her," Service said. "She can now be comfortable around people who look like her; it's not a novelty, it's not something that she doesn't see often. The primary thing that Elikya does is support kids in understanding their culture. It's magical. There's no other way to explain it."
But the performers in Elikya aren't the only ones who will get the download on Africa, Service said.
"There will be a lot of information, so the audience will walk away with more knowledge of African-American culture, through music."
"Africa!" is a 90-minute show that will feature colorful costumes -- 15 costume changes in all -- with the girls performing traditional African dance numbers up through modern hip-hop and jazz, and the boys beating out rhythms on African drums. Modern vocals will be performed from the musical "Hairspray," as well as Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and a Michael Jackson medley, among others.
"It is a very high-energy performance," Stott said. "You will not go away disappointed. We dance on the stage, in the audience. We pull the audience throughout the whole production. It's very, very fun. It's something for the very youngest to the very oldest, and everybody will leave thinking, 'That was for me.' "