Jazz, a fertile exploration in Afro-Asian fusion

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Wisconsin-based Peggy Choy and Chicago’s Onye Ozuzu collaborate to present an evening of dance works that re-envision dance as a way to navigate water, water crises and changing eco-cultural identities. RIVER · MOUTH · OCEAN: Explorations in Afro-Asian Futurism will include appearances by Choy and Ozuzu, members of local Chicago West African dance company Ayodele Drum and Dance, Lacouir Yancey—b-boy and capoerista from Madison, Wisconsin, and Ai Ikeda—New York dancer and wushu martial artist.

Both artists are working with music recorded by jazz artists largely in the 1960’s who represent a period of fertile development in jazz history where conceptual, technical and instrumental territories between American jazz and Asian musical forms were being actively explored by jazz greats such as: Yusef Lateef, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders.

To see and hear the explorations of Afro-Asian fusion check out the performance of RIVER · MOUTH · OCEAN at Links Hall, Chicago | October 10 -12 | Friday – Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $10 General Admission.

Purchase Tickets | Invite Friends

Links Hall is located at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618—convenient to the Belmont/Clyborn & Western CTA Bus Stop in Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood. The former viaduct lot at Western and Belmont will be available to Constellation audience. For more information call 773.281.0824.

Dancing Iterations of Futurism by Peggy Choy and Onye Ozuzu

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Following Chicago’s summer buzz around Afrofuturism, Peggy Choy and Onye Ozuzu collaborate in an evening of dance performances at Links Hall, RIVER · MOUTH · OCEAN: Explorations in Afro-Asian Futurism.

Through their own unique languages of dance Ozuzu and Choy explore water issues linked to cultural survival, environmental justice, and hybrid identities. The two artists initially connected through their shared experiences as contemporary dance artists whose training is based significantly in traditional non-western forms. Choy’s is Javanese, Korean dance and Chinese martial arts, and Ozuzu’s is Djembe dances of West Africa and Japanese martial arts.

Futurism, for Ozuzu and Choy, is a reference to a range of movements of social and aesthetic exploration that propel conceptions of humanity out of time/into the future…

From the exotic perception of African masks that inspired Picasso and the Cubists

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To the hyper-nationalist futurism of Filipo Marinetti in early 1900 Italy

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To the interminable timelessness of Japanese Bugaku and Gagaku

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To the insistent paradigm shifting of George Clinton and the Pfunk

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To sci-fi writer Octavia Butler

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And American psychedelic soul and R&B singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe

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Afro-Asian futurism functions as an important bridge in both Ozuzu and Choy’s orientation with respect to making work steeped in identifiable cultural markers yet re-mixed, reaching into a visionary future; to making work that dips into a sense of time heavily and ironically laden with circularity. Both artists work with mythological and ancestral material that evokes a sense of the past, like the term futurism itself. But like the narrative through-line of a free jazz composition, they engage performance and improvisational structures specifically intentioned to throw themselves open to flow.

Curious to see Ozuzu’s and Choy’s particular version of Afro-Asian futurism?

Check out the performance of RIVER · MOUTH · OCEAN at Links Hall, Chicago | October 10 -12 | Friday – Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $10 General Admission.

Purchase Tickets and Invite Friends via Facebook

Links Hall is located at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618—convenient to the Belmont/Clyborn & Western CTA Bus Stop in Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood. The former viaduct lot at Western and Belmont will be available to Constellation audience. For more information call 773.281.0824.

Stark and Poignant: A dancer’s life revealed

Catching me by surprise, I find myself attached to Cédric Andrieux and amazed by his twenty-year career as a professional contemporary dancer after watching his 120-minute demo-monologue performance. Cédric Andrieux sets the casual atmosphere in his dress, wearing just sweats, a hoodie, and socks, and comes to the front of the stage, setting his liter of water and gym bag at the edge.

However, there is nothing casual about his stance center stage, his feet in a perfect parallel first and his arms hanging at his side.  In a monotone with subtle variations, Andrieux delivers his monologue autobiography without any gestural movement except the occasional nervous clutching of his left hand.

The delivery is very similar to many of Jérôme Bel’s works.  Andrieux’s solo fits into a series of interview/monologue/demonstration performances about real life dancers. The first was in 2004 with Véronique Doisneau, a solo for the real-life Véronique Doisneau, a dancer of the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera. In his solo, Andrieux does not perform not performing, however his tale is well paced, with a slow and steady delivery, giving time to visualize his stories as well as ponder what will happen next. At key moments this slow, patient delivery creates great comedic timing for well-worded comments.

We traverse the twenty years of Cédric Andrieux’s career, beginning at Brest at le Quartz, Andrieux’s hometown national arts center, to Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse of Paris, which Andrieux claims is France’s FAME. Andrieux spends most of the evening describing his time at the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in NYC, where he spent 8 formable years. Andrieux ends his story back in France where he danced for the Lyon Opera Ballet in the works of Trisha Brown, Odile Duboc, William Forsythe, and Jérôme Bel’s infamous piece The show must go on, recently restaged in Philadelphia for the 2008 Live Arts Festival.

At each point on the trajectory, Andrieux shows us a solo or an excerpt of the various pieces he has performed. While the raw dancing with no music and no costume (except if you count the tie-dyed unitard symbolizing all of Cunningham’s costumes) is impeccably performed with precision and grace, it is the moments when Andrieux reveals the behind the scenes workings of a dancer that really connects me to his physical experience as well as represents Bel’s unusual curiosity with putting on stage (and for extended periods of time) that which is often edited in the creation process. From holding a poise for art modeling, silent and frozen, to demonstrating Cunningham’s religious warm-up with interjections of “this is when I get really bored,” Andrieux generates humor and at the same time empathy.

It is also well chosen to show the excerpt “Every Breathe You Take [I’ll be watching You]” by the Police from The show must go on, because it completes Jérôme Bel’s vision of democratic dance (dance that can be performed by anyone) creating community. As Cédric Andrieux mentions, The show must go on consists of various pop songs, primarily in English, during which the performers do exactly what the lyrics say. In The show must go on, the cast, individually, stake out spots along the rim of the stage, looking out into the audience. It is at this moment under the unwavering gaze of the performers that the two communities are linked, truly creating a theater-in-the-round inside the confines of a proscenium stage. As so eloquently stated by Jennifer Dunning, “the fourth wall does tumble. All that is left is a laserlike connection between eyes on both sides of the stage.” With the audience watching the performers and the performers kindly and supportively watching the audience, we, in the collective sense, realize that this performance has incorporated the entire theatre of people.

As in the actual performance, Andrieux cues the music and then from starting offstage, he walks boldly to the edge of the stage. The house lights also come up, exposing us after such a long evening of his own self-exposure. Andrieux scans the audience with his eyes, connecting for a moment with an individual and frequently sharing a smile for the first time in the evening. Afterwards, Andrieux reflects upon when he performed the piece in 2007 at the Lyon Opera. He admits it was the first time in his career he was given the chance to see the audience, those who were bored or really enjoying the show, or like tonight, he points back to one audience member, who he shared a long look, where he felt a real connection.

Through kinetic empathy and intellectual awareness, Bel again crafts an audience-performer connection in this solo. In starting with such a stark image, a single man on a blank stage delivering a dry, even story, Cédric Andrieux has managed to emotionally entangle me. A classic Bel direction, to humble the dancer, reveal the hard work that they make look so effortless, and give us the empathy to care about what’s happening on stage.

Cédric Andrieux
Live Arts Festival
Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
Last show: Thursday, 9/16 at 7pm; $25