February 20, 2012
“I decided I needed other voices,” the Danspace Parallels project curator Ishmael Houston-Jones
says, “and tonight we’re doing an evening of black dance where none of the dancers are African
Black Jam marked the first of a three-evening program forming the 30th
Anniversary of Parallels - a program, he reminds us, that offers a look a look into black dance,
postmodern and experimental movement.
Thursday featured dancers Hunter Carter, Samantha Speis and Marýa Wethers
in an improvisational, hour-long adventure, presented under the direction and personal narration
of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Zollar, welcomed into the space, comments, “everything will be
transparent…I grew up in a household where this type of movement was a part of the culture,
seeing people spontaneously connecting with others.”
A video of Jones in a contact improvisation duo projects from a laptop against the back wall
of the sanctuary performance space at St. Marks Church. The three dancers walk in from the
sides to begin their own contact improvisation, rolling off one another, sometimes organically,
sometimes awkwardly, always with determined intention. One among them instigates noise by
letting out a yelp.
Speis takes the space for a solo, her movement naturally swift, flowing, colored with her off-
kilter movements, testing her own balance. Carter begins to casually sing from the sidelines,
and soon an improv comedy routine occurs surrounding the audience-selected idea of hellish
red boots, pinning principal and student-like pair playfully against one another. Zollar then
challenges the dancers to get from point A to B without contact in decreasing time intervals, and
wrapping up the performance a trio performs house dance after speaking about its underground
The collaborative nature of the improvisational sphere of dance is reflected through the informal
stop-and-go of the performance (even a stop-watch!), the intermingled discussion, and inclusion
of audience members.
Prior to the entire audience being invited out to dance, Zollar brings out
Jones, Bebe Miller, Gesel Mason and Cynthia Oliver to improvise together.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jennifer Thompson