In “Dancing for the People” (developed from the work “Dancing Black Popular Culture,”which was presented at UC Riverside in 2000), I draw on the works of two contemporary black dance companies; Urban Bush Women and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, to describe the political and formal possibilities and limitations to staging vernacular idioms to draw in black audiences. Both directors, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Brown, at various points in their careers, have invested in a specific and particular use of popular black forms and language to express their identities and viewpoints, attract black audiences, and carve out a space for themselves in the modern and post-modern dance spheres. This paper works to examine the ways in which those choices have served the companies and simultaneously limited them.Both Urban Bush Women and Ronald K. Brown have stretched ideas around what has been determined as black dance. Their paths from marginality to a broader black public sphere, their initial placement as “downtown” New York artists, to that of a full embrace in both “uptown” and “downtown” New York cultures, is also of concern here. Did the inclusion of black popular idioms assist in that transition? Did that inclusion make it easier for the respective publics to identify these two creators as “black” choreographers? Was their path to black public acceptance one which the companies aimed to in the first place? Or was it a matter of white acceptance and press which precluded their success as now noteworthy black choreographers? In this work, presented at the Chicago Seminar on Dance and Performance, I examine the modes of black expressive culture used in specific works by both groups, how it’s use may differ with the gender of the artistic directors, the issues they choose to address, and the ways in which their choices ultimately affect the reputations and circulation of representative images of the respective groups.
|Original language||English (US)|
|State||Published - 2003|
|Event||The Chicago Seminar on Dance and Performance - Chicago, United States|
Duration: Jan 1 2003 → Jan 1 2003
|Conference||The Chicago Seminar on Dance and Performance|
|Period||1/1/03 → 1/1/03|
Oliver, C. (2003). Dancing for the People: Ronald K. Brown/Evidence and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Urban Bush Women’s Courting of a Black Audience. Paper presented at The Chicago Seminar on Dance and Performance, Chicago, United States.