Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dance Review: Urban Bush Women, Unapologetically Zollar

Urban Bush Women, Photography by Yi-Chun Wu Urban Bush Women presents an insightful evening of celebration at New York City’s Dance Theater Workshop entitled Zollar: Uncensored…  Jawole’s unapologetically raw interpretation of the beauty and strength of womanhood. 

The show begins with Jawole herself standing in a pool of light and continues on with song.  The entire show is narrated by the voices of Somi, Pyeng Threadgill, and once again, Jawole herself, who sing folkloric music, traditional to the different places of the African Diaspora, fused with a more “jazz-like” sound and African American Spiritual.  With accompaniment by percussionist, Beverly Botsford, the movement also fuses these traditions with a touch of modern dance, characteristic of Jawole’s movement style.

The first major dance section gives an interesting perspective on each women’s experience as the dancers go in-and-out of hip gyrations, applying lipstick and seeming to be in their own inner worlds of turmoil.  It is a happy experience at times and painfully complicated at others.  The feelings in this section expresses mixtures of eroticism, pain, pleasure, joyfulness, and pride…  The dancers are at all moments comfortable in their own skin, even in a later section where they actually vocalize "orgasmic" sensations but from different experiences. One dancer even screams in pleasure as she actually eats a cupcake on stage!

Have Something to Say?  Join iDANZ Today!The show continues on the ride through sections where the dancers celebrate and get down by “shaking what they mama gave them,” to where they literally are chanting to each other on stage, to more emotional sections where a dancer performs an amazing solo completely naked.  She is led on the stage by Jawole and a poem which describes her story full of abuse and disregard because she is a woman.  I am a bit frustrated because the program does not specify who the soloists are, but I soon forget as I watch the “unidentified" dancer throw her body onto the ground repeatedly, rolling around and thrashing in pain with control that is only characteristic of a strong and well-centered dancer.  She is more than comfortable with herself and her nudity which is also an admirable thing both as a dancer, for her commitment to telling a story through her art, and as a women, who is comfortable in her skin and who fights against all the assumptions and negativity that is based on body image in the dance world.  All of Jawole’s dancers are strong, technical, and represent the beauty that the feminine body has to offer which is often oppressed in the dance world.  (That’s a whole other discussion..lol)  Why do dancers hate these things?  Hips, thighs, breasts, hey… that’s a part of womanhood…  A great thing to see on stage!!  Love it!

After the soloist fights she is saved by the other dancers who swirl around her and actually dress her on stage.  They end up dancing together celebrating the power that faith and spiritual guides give us to overcome.

The show ends with a section that begins with another powerful solo exemplifying another facet of the strength of women.  The dancer first performs with her back completely turned to the audience which is an interesting yet challenging thing to do as it requires complete submersion in her character and a “real” performance quality which she certainly pulls off.  She dances with a knife and her movements are mostly pedestrian, but are intense and purposeful as she tells the audience that she is not one to be messed with.  She undresses, taking off her raincoat, pumps, and eventually changes on stage but remains topless with sunglasses on.  She does a final dance and ritual breaking an egg on her chest as dancers present flowers and offerings around her… 

Overall, the movement is mostly traditional, dancers perform in basic formations while the transitions from section to section are seamed; however the dancers are very powerful and seem to have a strong foundation both in themselves and in the movement. They dance almost perfectly in sync which is evidence of being well-rehearsed, being able to relate well to each other, and having a clear understanding of where the movement that they perform comes from. This is something that many unseasoned dancers lack as many dancers think their job is just to perform steps… but not Jawole’s dancers.

Amidst all of the conformity that’s present in the dance world, Urban Bush Woman is smartly refreshing.  And, to think that they have been performing for 26 years, at times when there were even more barriers to break…  Bravo!

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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by JoiLynn
Choreographer:  Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
Performance:  Urban Bush Women
Venue: 
Dance Theater Workshop, DTW
Show Date:  January 20, 2010
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