Dancer-choreographer-teacher Onye Ozuzu, Dean of the Columbia College Chicago School of Fine and Performing Arts and former Chair of the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, will be representing the United States at danceGATHERING (Lagos Contemporary Dance Festival) in Lagos, Nigeria. Beginning February 20, the event is a two-week process-based master class that culminates in a series of performances, discussions, and workshops that runs March 1-5.
Ozuzu will participate in danceGATHERING as both an instructor and a performing choreographer, working with artists from Nigeria, Mozambique, Tunisia, and Mali. The event is the brainchild of Qudus Onikeku, a dynamic figure in West Africa in contemporary dance. His organization, the QDance Center, is offering the event as a workshop/festival meant to focus “on the thought process of imagining creative and artistic project from conception to fruition.”
“I will be working for five days with a group of dance makers/choreographers that have been accepted into the workshop, utilizing a group improvisational structure that I have been developing in collaboration with dancers all over [the U.S.] for several years, The Technology of the Circle,” says Ozuzu. “The five-day intensive will result in a performance by the participants at the Silverbird Galleria in Lagos.” Ozuzu will also perform a new solo piece, Her Words Masquerade as Me, on the same program.
“This work is a tribute to Octavia Butler, an Afro-futurist that wielded the power of the near future, of the ‘not so far from,’ of alternative perspective, of refraction, and used it to loosen our emotional, historical, and ideological holds on our place and position in time and space,” says Ozuzu of Her Words Masquerade as Me. “Through an embodied exploration of a particular story of Butler’s, ‘the evening and the night and the morning,’ I seek to unearth Butler’s . . . ability to leverage convincingly refracted realities as metaphors that launch from the everyday experiences of black people — our babies, our brothers, mothers, cousins and ’em. In this story a hereditary ailment that manifests in scratching, deadly gruesome unimaginable scratching, is explored for its connections to latent abilities and psycho-social maturation in a group of people ostracized in a future world that fears them. The story chronicles the journey of a young person who learns to see their ‘ailment’ as a symptom of a potential, and to develop that potential and become something other than the narrative society laid out. When I first read the story many years ago I immediately flashed to myself at seven years old, crouched in a bathroom scratching eczema-covered arms bloody. And then I thought about my cousin and my friend and his daughter and so on; so many people I know who struggled with the same ailment.”
Prior to leaving for Nigeria, Ozuzu will be setting a group version of Her Words Masquerade as Me on students at Northwestern University.
Here’s a promotional video with information on the Lagos Contemporary Dance Festival:
As reported previously in this blog, Ozuzu was appointed Dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts in 2016 after serving a one-year term as Interim Dean. She arrived at Columbia College in 2011 as a professor and Chair of the Dance Department. Previously she was the Associate Chair, Director of Dance, and a tenured professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she taught for 11 years and was involved in curriculum development and revision. Consistently active in her field, Ozuzu focuses her research on better understanding the body in relationship to our perceptions of lived experience — physical, temporal, individual, communal, cultural, political, spiritual, and so on. An ongoing practice of ethnographic dance research informs her work in the classroom as well as her creative endeavors outside the classroom.