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ARTS DIARY: Variety and passion of women dancers; Afro-American company full of drama.

Byline: BY PHILIP KEY Daily Post Arts Editor

THERE is nothing if not variety in the work of the African American dance company Urban Bush Women.

As the title suggests, this is an all female ensemble led by and founded by a remarkable woman, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, who choreographs most of the work.

Last night's programme gave us three of her works ranging from the semi religious and serious Shelter to the almost showbusiness.

The fourth piece, a solo, was created about 16 years ago by Blondell Evans and recreated by her for the company last year.

Walking With Pearl created "in collaboration with the company" had words by the late Pearl Primus, a Trinidad-born, New York-raised choreographer who was a leading light in the African/ American dance movement.

The words suggested she "found her drum" in a preacher's voice and a variety of traditional music backed movements that hinted at one of those Holy Roller churches where participants really let themselves go.

There was shaking, leaping, people restrained, a laying on of hands and an enormous amount of energy. While obviously closely choreographed, there was a freedom of movement in the dance that you come across rarely.

In contrast, Flashback/ Flash Forward had a funky score and got funky treatment with lots of soul in the group dancing and an eyepopping solo. They wriggled, they did slinky and they even did funny.

At one stage they donned dark glasses to get that mysterious look and finally a dancer of what might be termed "a certain age" joined the younger dancers to move slowly with them and finally pronounce - accurately - "That was hot, baby!"

Chicken Soup, a solo danced by Marjani Forte, portrayed a woman in ordinary settings, shopping, gossiping, but occasionally breaking free in abandoned dance.

The final work was rather more serious. Shelter examined the problem of homelessness, particularly among black Americans with references to the New Orleans floods and Noah.

Six dancers went through all the dance emotions in a very physical way, as tough and energetic as any male dancer, and provided a fitting end to a night of strong passions.

The rare visit, incidentally, was made with help from the Liverpool Culture Company.


Urban Bush Women - provided a night of strong emotions
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 28, 2007
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