Pearl Primus had originally planned on a career in biology but, as an African-American woman in the first half of the twentieth century, she ran into a lot of closed doors. Luckily for the artistic world, Primus went on to become a pioneer of traditional African and African-American concert dance, bringing academic rigor to her research and passion to the floor. Primus was among the first to present African dance to mainstream American audiences, performing original works informed by the black diaspora to academics, civil-rights fighters and Broadway theater-goers alike. In other words, Primus not only paved the way, but also graded the ground and invented the asphalt for companies like Muntu. This Saturday, Muntu will be the first African-American dance company to present Primus’ work, including “A Negro Speaks of Rivers,” her signature piece based on a Langston Hughes poem. The program includes a tribute to Michael Jackson and celebratory dances of the Yankadi, Kassa and Macru people; expect a high-energy, mixed program that will pull you right out of your seat. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, (312)334-7777. Saturday, July 17, 7pm. $25-50.