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Flash Review 2, 7-10: Journeys
A Quest for Peace with Pollard and Ozuzu

By Terry Hollis
Copyright 2000 Terry Hollis

At the end of "Resurrection of the Soul," choreographed by Trebien Pollard, Chris McMillan is clearly in despair. As she mumbles fearfully to one corner, an angelic figure in white (Leslie Myers) comes and places a hand on her shoulder and instantly, she is okay. Although this is the last piece of the evening, it is the culmination of what has amounted to one long journey. "Resurrection," presented at Joyce Soho on July 8 by the Skeleton Dance Project, under the direction of Mr. Pollard and Onye Ozuzu, gave us nine separate pieces, but each dance portrayed people appealing to or communing with a higher power. Not everyone reaches their peace, but the drive and fervor that they bring to the choreography let you know that they're not about to stop trying.

Onye Ozuzu's dances are firmly rooted in traditional vernaculars. "Leviathan" opens with the image of Ms. Ozuzu bound by ropes and flanked by two other dancers (Carlos Funn and Latisha Tucker). As she frees herself we realize that it ends in a noose around her neck. The picture resonates because the rope that binds her throughout the dance leads her off to her resolution at the end. Osubi Craig provided the live drumming accompaniment. In "Open Heart," a beautifully performed monologue, Ms. Ozuzu seems to embody several generations of one family. In one moment she displays the jagged articulations of an old woman who knows exactly how to keep her spirit from failing her and in the next she expresses an almost naive openness as she soars through a Billie Holiday tune. Although she stays rooted to her seat throughout the piece we are convinced that she has taken the journey she needed. Other pieces concentrated purely on the physical. "Ishmael" and "The Mourning" both evoked strong emotions using Ms. Ozuzu's command of African dance and her inventiveness. In both pieces she confronts the audience with the power she can summon by full-throttled movement or tense, restrained anguish.

Having spent much of his dance career performing in such companies as Pilobolus, Erick Hawkins Dance Co., and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Trebien Pollard brings a definite formalism to the stage, but his work never lacks heart and a strong emotional base. His "Blessed" portrays two men bonded in a relationship of love and dependence. Together, their movements are usually confined to supporting or embracing each other, but apart, their bodies unleash the obvious passion that keeps them together. "A Fistful Of Daughters" gives us five strong performers (Sae la Chin, Wanjiru Kamuyu, McMillan, Leslie Myers, and Blakeley White) in what seems like a tribute to feminine energy. Given the commitment of the performers I was hoping for more of a context from the piece. "The Gospel Of A Swan," performed by Mr. Pollard, showed all of his best attributes: long articulate legs, an expressive upper body, and speed and clarity not usually associated with a dancer his size. The piece worked as a sort of reverse dying swan, the struggles serving to empower and not defeat. "Resurrection Of The Soul" brings back the female quintet but this time with more of a point. Ripping through break-neck choreography and stopping to kneel and chant to us what seems like their lives and fears the performers are joined by a silent figure in white. She serves as both guide and savior for these women and gives a definite purpose to their travels. Their movements become testimony .

Skeleton Dance Project seems to make a point of using contemporary and traditional voices to carry the work and shows us that the body speaks for us in many different ways. To quote Ms. Ozuzu from an earlier piece: "Dance bring your wealth in the circle of everyone else and from the human bring out a spirit."

 

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