Bush Women exuberant in performance

DANCE REVIEW

January 24, 1994|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

The Urban Bush Women is as provocative a moniker for a dance company as you are likely to see, and this New York City company under the artistic director of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar lived up to its expectations when the group opened its weekend performance at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre Friday night.

This company of seven women (including Ms. Zollar) along with Jamaican-born percussionist and composer Junior "Gaba" Wedderburn and musician Ron McBee was explosive with intoxicating rhythms or soulfully dramatic with portrayals drawn from life situations.

Yet curiously enough, Urban Bush Women promised more than it delivered, especially in the first half of the program, where an excerpt, "Girlfriends," and two works in progress, "A Dance" and Nyabinghi Dreamtime" were presented.

The problem was that the first half of the evening was under-realized.

While individual works were interesting enough in their own right, the program was curiously arranged. We really never got a sense of who this company was until the closing work, "I Don't Know, But I Been Told If You Keep On Dancin' You'll Never Grow Old," which wonderfully carried the troupe's message of dance as an equal opportunity with full energy.

Ms. Zollar's choreographic style is more process than product. That is not to say that what eventually occurs is not interesting, but that how she arrives at a particular moment is as important as that moment itself.

This was evident in both "Nyabinghi Dreamtime" and "I Been Told . . ." where out of chaos comes order. At one moment the women are scattered about the space, each dancing separately or in couples. Suddenly they form a diagonal, a wedge or other geometric patterns and in unison they stomp or shake or sway, filling the space with their energy.

"A Dance," a duet for percussionist and dancer, demonstrated the fine form of Maia Claire Garrison and provided the technical bedrock for the troupe's choreography. Ms. Zollar draws from African to ballet to pedestrian movements for her forms, and Ms. Garrison slipped in an out of her idioms with grace and style.

"Girlfriends," a mini-drama set at a slumber party, wound its way through the rocky road of relationships as dancers Terri Cousar, Christine King, Treva Offutt and Valerie Winbourne shared secrets, argued, teased, made up then finally burst out in laughter.

Both group works, "Nyabinghi Dreamtime and "I Been Told . . ." relied on rituals for their choreographic base. In "Dreamtime" they are those associated with the spirit world of the Nyabinghi Rastafarians in Jamaica. "I Been Told . . ." uses the rituals of playground games, street dancing and marching bands. In both, Ms. Zollar captured the exuberance and sheer enthusiasm of the participants to the delight of the audience.

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