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The rich cultural traditions and natural beauty of Africa are seldom celebrated stateside. Most news focuses on violent conflict and the AIDS pandemic, and the scope of movies and books is limited to the depiction of children with swollen bellies swatting flies from their faces and the wild animals of the Serengeti. African-Americans wanting to get in touch with our African heritage are often forced to do so through the purchase of goods, so we settle for wearing mass-produced kente-cloth outfits and throwing plastic cowrie shells in our hair. Unwilling to accept the manufactured, materialistic “African” culture being marketed to him, accomplished dancer Chuck Davis began traveling to the continent in the ’80s in search of a more authentic experience. Davis shares a taste of the knowledge acquired through his travels in the form of his annual Dance Africa festival. The event, now in its 15th year, features dance classes, demonstrations, evening gala performances, and even an African marketplace (no fake kente here). “Drum, Dance, Voice and Step,” the theme for 2002, features performances by African dance companies including the Kankouran West African Dance Co., Soul in Motion, Sankofa Dance Theater, and Return to Goree. Each group’s performance shows how traditional African rhythm and movement have shaped today’s music and dance, particularly hiphop and step—proof that despite thousands of miles, hundreds of years, and exposure to “African folk art” crafted in Taiwan, diasporic Africans are still connected to the homeland. The festival starts at 1 p.m., Saturday, June 8, and Sunday, June 9, at Dance Place, 3225 8th St. NE. Free-$18. (202) 269-1600. (Sarah Godfrey)