Fela! storms Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing — and Femi Kuti plays, too!

Sahr Ngaujah, star of the Broadway musical Fela!, leads Midsummer Night Swing dance lessons on Monday night. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force may have been the headline act at tonight’s special Monday night edition of Midsummer Night Swing, but the cast members from Fela! on Broadway who taught the preshow dance lesson were just as big a draw — and equally exciting — for many in the audience.

Jill Vallery (in blue T-shirt, left), the dance captain from Fela!, worked hard to keep the crowd dancing.

Sahr Ngaujah, who created the title role of Fela Anikulapo Kuti off-Broadway, and shares the role on Broadway with Kevin Mambo, joined Fela! dance captain Jill Vallery and a host of dancers from the stage spectacle as they whipped the wannabe Afrobeat dancers into a frenzy. Many of the people in the audience, like yours truly, ably demonstrated that they had two left feet when it came to following the athletic and intricate steps involved. But that didn’t deter many from trying. But the real test came later, when the real dance party started. Click through for more photos.

Femi Kuti is your sex-education instructor for the evening.

While few in the audience really locked in those complicated instructions, the ecstatic half hour or so of dance lessons freed most of them up for what came next: An opportunity to try out variations of those steps — and freestyle innovations of their own — to the music of Femi Kuti & The Positive Force. And what a force that was.

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force.

Femi said he was a little undecided what to play, old songs or new, since he has an album coming out soon. But he seemed to stick to older, more familiar numbers for the most part. And that got the crowd pretty wound up.

Of course, the highlight of the evening was Femi’s cover of his father’s well-known “Beng, Beng, Beng” (or “Bang, Bang, Bang,” as many people know it), a sex-education song of sorts.

2 responses to “Fela! storms Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing — and Femi Kuti plays, too!

  1. stephanie romaniello

    ive been trying to get a hold of jill vallery for years. she is a childhood friend of mine. can you please relay this message, tell her i miss her terribly and to call me. thanks!

    • Jill: If you happen to read this, feel free to contact Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? for Stephanie’s phone number. We don’t know if this is legit or not, so we deleted the number she included with her comment.

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