A Review by Devin Ablow, (Dance in the City, Barnard College Pre-College Programs)
Tonight I was fortunate to see three companies perform at The New Victory Theater in Manhattan: Darrah Carr Dance, Zvi Dance, and Urban Bush Women. Since 1998, Darrah Carr Dance has performed a blend of contemporary and Irish step, a style Darrah Carr, herself, refers to as “ModERIN” (BroadwayWorld). ZviDance, founded about 20 years ago, performs a bold and exciting style of contemporary dance. While ZviDance mainly performs in New York theaters, the company has toured across North America and Europe, as stated on their website. Lastly, Urban Bush Women, which Founding Artistic Director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar began in 1984, expresses the vitality of the African community while promoting social change through dance, as explained on the company’s website.
Darrah Carr’s performance was both intricate and lighthearted. Some pieces included extremely difficult Irish step technique to music in the background. The effect was intense and powerful. Other dances were technically impressive, but also humorous. For example, in two of the pieces, an older man began the dance with either a song composed of a variety of short sounds or a rhythm generated by two spoons. The costuming, music, and technique clearly reflected Irish culture and gave the audience some insight into Irish traditions. This performance both educated and amused the audience, making for a varied and interesting night.
After Darrah Carr’s performance, ZviDance took the stage. Expressing a loose contemporary modern style of dance, this performance was set on a stage without a curtain backdrop and no wings. The entire performance was loose and gestural, as suggested by the openness of the setting, with the cast performing short, abstract moves at varying angles and times. The group appeared well rehearsed and the costumes, different for every member of the cast, also highlighted the contemporary, abstract style of the dance.
Lastly, Urban Bush Women’s performance began with a female solo to a spoken word track that simply named powerful African American figures throughout history. This piece culminated in a gathering of the entire group on stage, and played with the idea of race and social change in the world; it was quite powerful. The entire performance was rarely danced to any music, with quiet rhythms, the sound of feet hitting the stage, and singing or rapping accompanying the piece. This lack of music playing from speakers further reflected the themes of African culture and female empowerment through dancing to sounds generated by the women of the company; these sounds and rhythms conveyed every woman’s individual character, especially in a piece where each girl rapped about herself, and culture. The rap, which allowed all members of the audience to engage with the performance through standing and clapping to the beat, was the final piece of the show.
Ultimately, through seeing performances by these three dance companies, I, as an audience member, gained a new understanding of different cultures and saw how three very different groups can all create powerful and inspiring work.