Local troupes entertain Michelle Obama's NATO luncheon
The NATO summit promises more than CTA closures and tear gas. First Lady Michelle Obama celebrates her homecoming with a Sunday lunch for the spouses of NATO leaders at the South Side’s Gary Comer Youth Center, only two miles from the South Euclid Avenue apartment in which she grew up. The featured performers include Muntu Dance Theatre and the South Shore Drill Team, companies that, like the Obamas, call Chicago's South Side home. Also on the bill: the vocal talents of the Soul Children of Chicago.
Muntu Dance Theatre has been performing African, Caribbean and African-American works since 1972. Their piece for Sunday, entitled Tiba, is choreographed by West African master dancer Moustapha Bangoura and contains a live drum orchestra and customary costumes from Guinea.
Performing for the First Lady and hundreds of other dignitaries requires extensive security checks and weeks of training. “It was last month when we got a call from the Comer Center asking for a meeting. We’ve had a partnership with the Comer Center for some years now,” says Mignon McPherson-Stewart, Muntu’s resource development manager. “When we went to the meeting, they told me that the First Lady had requested for us to be involved in this event she was planning. Of course, we were ecstatic and immediately agreed.”
Based in the Comer Center, the South Shore Drill Team has been a creative outlet for Chicago’s inner-city youth for more than 30 years. Sunday’s routine will feature 45 of the team’s nearly 300 members, and includes choreography to Frank Sinatra’s “Chicago,” Michael Jackson’s “Can You Feel It” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”—songs selected in part by the White House.
“We submitted a tape to the White House so they could see the selection, so it was them plus our instructors working with them,” says Sara Vlajcic, the nonprofit’s administrative director. Vlajcic says the excited kids have had frequent rehearsals and informal NATO lessons from the team’s instructors.
“We did have to submit info to security, but this is not new to us,” Vlajcic says. “Last fall, our kids performed at the Department of Justice conference and also took part in sessions with high-level federal employees, so they had to submit similar information for that.”