Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Joyce's American Dance Platform: UBW and DCDC

Chanon Judson of Urban Bush Women
(photo: Gennia Cui)

American Dance Platform: Urban Bush Women and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
The Joyce Theater
January 7 and 12

If it's true what they say about how viewers' mirror neurons respond when audiences look at dancers moving, and you attended The Joyce on Tuesday night for American Dance Platform, your mirror neurons likely got a serious workout. Evidence for that, from me, is how exhausted I felt the next morning as if even every toe nail and eyelash I possess were worked to max from watching Urban Bush Women (UBW) and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), two troupes of extraordinary physical daring and power. More evidence came from the way the opening night audience responded in the moment. I'm not talking about the expected, and justified, standing Os and rousing cheers; I mean those very Black mmmhmmms, the audible sighs, the cries, the groans and other unrestrained vocalizing that greeted DCDC dancers killing it during Abby Zbikowski's Indestructible (2018) with apparently zero fear of bodily wear-and-tear. If, in a sense, we all danced along with UBW and DCDC as we witnessed them, I await my Bessie nomination.

With the very recent departure of Du'Bois A'Keen, UBW is back to being an all-woman company. My favorite on the evening's bill (to be repeated this coming Sunday) was UBW's Women's Resistance, an excerpt from les écailles de la mémoire (Scales of Memory) with choreographic direction from founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Germaine Acogny with additional choreography from eight former and current UBW members. It takes a village. And, indeed, looks like a village...of disciplined women warriors demonstrating their earth-sprung, spring-loaded battle-readiness within a sonic environment where shredding mechanical rhythms suggest both how formidable these women are and how menacing are the forces they are up against. UBW paired this ensemble with Zollar's 1989 I Don't Know, But I Been Told, If You Keep On Dancin' You Never Grow Old, which now includes segments from visible (2011), made by nora chipaumire and Marguerite Hemmings. And, yes, there is a definite connection and throughline--similar resourcefulness, ingenuity and high skill even in the midst of play that some might unwisely consider trivial.

UBW performers: Courtney J. Cook, Melissa Cobblah Gutierrez (Understudy), Jasmine Hearn, Chanon Judson (Co-Artistic Director), Love Muwwakkil, Samantha Spies (Co-Artistic Director), Elaisa van der Kust, Makaila Ware

Taking on Indestructible, Ohio's venerable DCDC--founded in 1968 by Jeraldyne Blunden and now directed by her daughter, Debbie Blunden-Diggs--was right in tune with the night's audacious mood. The main difference is, with Abby Z high-impact, daredevil choreography, neither you nor the dancers get a chance to chill. So, again, those mirror neurons.... Add occasional blasts from the electronic, industrial hip hop band Death Grips. The evening wrapped up with DCDC's excerpt from Donald Byrd's The Geography of the Cotton Field (2014) which paints, with an elegant hand, a canvas at once sweepingly abstract and epically specific.

DCDC performers: Devin Baker, Qarrianne Blayr (Associate Artistic Director), Breanna Dorsey, Alexandria Flewellen, Michael Green, Steve Lamblin, Robert Pulido, Elizabeth Ramsey, Nile Alicia Ruff, Nabachwa Ssensalo (Actress), Quentin Apollovaughn Sledge, Matthew J. Talley, Countess V. Winfrey

One show remains--this Sunday at 7:30pm--but tickets are sold out.

175 Eighth Avenue at West 19th Street, Manhattan

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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