What do urban bush women want? Well, judging by this New York group of seven dancer-singers and a percussionist, they want to be heard and seen, they want to sing and move, they want to celebrate cheerleaders and drum majorettes, African culture in its American guises, women in all their varieties. Urban Bush Women honor female camaraderie in Girlfriends and in Shelter express their fears that homeless women, independent women who might become homeless, and perhaps humankind itself will become extinct. The dancing is a curious, often affecting mix of African and modern; the singing is cut and pasted with postmodern abandon but relies on traditional forms like folk songs and field hollers. When I saw artistic director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar perform her solo Life Dance II. . . The Papess (mirror in the waters) in the fall of 1989, she was so strong in her spike heels, dark glasses, and blue lipstick that she scared me–and reassured me. The character she played might have cut your throat, but she could just as easily and efficiently have rocked your children to sleep. This weekend Urban Bush Women returns to perform Life Dance III. . . The Empress (womb wars), Girlfriends, Shelter, Nyabinghi Dreamtime, and A Dance. . . Batty Moves Saturday at 8 at Centre East, 7701 N. Lincoln in Skokie; $22-$25. Call 708-673-6300 for tickets and information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cylla Von Tiedmann.