Darfur ballet puts Marine’s story to music

Lauren Piro

Sometimes you just need to dance … and save the world a little bit too.

It is this end exactly that the Philadelphia-based Rebecca Davis Dance Company proposes to accomplish with their upcoming ballet, titled “DARFUR.”

The idea for this project began with the book and film “The Devil Came on Horseback,” a first-hand account of U.S. Marine Brian Steidle’s six months in Darfur and the ongoing violence he experienced. The book captivated and moved Rebecca Davis, founder and artistic director of the company.

“I’d certainly been reading a lot about Darfur in the past year,” she said. “When I picked up Steidle’s book, I felt I could really identify with him and the American interest in Darfur. It propelled me and compelled me to have my company do something in a very powerful way by dance.”

The outcome is the company’s upcoming show, a ballet that puts Steidle’s story to music and movement.

Unlike traditional ballets with classical music, “DARFUR” will instead incorporate contemporary alternative rock, with music of those like Green Day, A Perfect Circle and The White Stripes.

The performance is divided into three acts, starting in America, moving to Sudan and then returning to America.

The idea for this type of ballet deeply characterizes Davis’ artistic mission through dance; other performances she has choreographed include the historical piece “Antigone” and another about the life of Helen Keller.

“I wanted [“DARFUR”] to have a contemporary feel because it is history, but it is today’s history,” Davis said. “It’s not a problem we inherited; it’s a problem we created.”

In addition to the ballet’s Darfur-inspired theme, 25 percent of the proceeds from each ticket sold will be donated to the non-profit organization Global Grassroots.

Created by Steidle’s sister, Global Grassroots concentrates on aiding marginal and disadvantaged communities worldwide and is particularly interested in supporting Sudan and its journey toward peace.

“[The situation in Darfur] is inherently an issue to young people,” Davis said. “It’s important for young people to see the piece and become aware.”

In hoping to attract college-age students to the performance, Davis has reached out to universities in the surrounding area, including Villanova.

Villanova’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America has a committee dedicated solely to promoting “DARFUR” on campus.

“Our goal is to get as many students involved as possible,” says junior Kate Dembroski, co-chair of the committee. “We want to get them thinking about the problem in Darfur and how they can help.”

The group has collaborated with Davis to allow for the selling of tickets on campus.

Sales will take place from March 31 to April 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oreo and inside Connelly Center.

The committee has also worked with the College of Liberal Arts and Science to certify the ballet as approved for ACS co-curricular credit, meaning it will count as a required cultural event for the freshman seminar.

“DARFUR” will run on April 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia’s Old City. The performance will run about 75 minutes, and tickets are $20 dollars for students and $30 for all other adults.

Inquiries about group sales can be addressed by Villanova’s committee.

For Davis, “DARFUR” is about dance’s “amazing ability to go where words cannot go, and yet still be very close to the issue at hand.”

“I think people can feel excited about this issue, and just by buying a ticket and attending the show they can do something to help,” Davis said.

Dembroski concurs, hoping Villanova’s interest in this issue be sparked by the ballet.

“I am hoping that the amount of tickets sold on Villanova’s campus will reflect the compassionate hearts of our students,” she swrote in an e-mail to The Villanovan. “I hope they will want to learn more and get involved in a fun way.”