Compared to the television world of waltzing movie stars and high school students with jazz hands, dances about racism, feminism, addiction, the Sisyphus myth and the mad daughter of James Joyce offer a welcome jolt. For the next two weekends, Ground Zero Dance will present “Only Connect,” featuring work by company artists Pam England and Rob Petres, as well as by guest artists Christian von Howard and Maria Bauman.
Bauman, founder of the New York-based company MBDance, will perform “50 Ways to Say,” a piece inspired by the fatal police shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man, in New York. “When I thought about the plight of black men in the United States,” Bauman says, “what I was reminded of was the myth of Sisyphus — that idea of pushing a boulder up a mountain and the feeling that when you’re almost getting somewhere, it rolls back down to the bottom.”
She created a distinct movement for each of the 50 shots fired that killed Bell and severely wounded two others. “For me, I wanted to know how it would feel to take it on those 50 shots for 18 minutes and to experience empathy, indignation and sadness,” Bauman says, “and then let that inform how I move in the rest of my time when I’m not on a dance stage.”
Bauman calls Richmond a second home. In 2006, she came to Virginia Commonwealth University for the dance program for a semester with a renowned company, the Urban Bush Women. She worked with Lea Marshall, assistant chairwoman of the VCU dance department and co-founder of the Ground Zero Dance Company [and a longtime Style Weekly contributor]. “We all fell in love,” Marshall says. “She started making her own work and we invited her to share it with us and we kept the relationship going.”
Relationships with other companies play a big part in the philosophy of Ground Zero Dance. Instead of the typical company model of one choreographer working with one group of dancers, Marshall feels that sharing the stage with other companies fosters an inclusiveness that supports modern dance as a whole. “If we have the money to put on a show,” Marshall says, “it’s nice to invite other people to participate. It’s a great model. The openness of it allows a lot of really exciting work to happen.”
Bauman’s other piece is called “Women I Know,” an exploration of her sense of femininity versus the American culture’s idea of how to be female. “I needed to dance about that,” she says. “I try to make sense of the world through my body. That’s what dancing is to me. It’s about finding your perspective and being as authentic as you possibly can with the one tangible thing you have, which is your body.” S
Only Connect will be performed Nov. 3 through Nov. 5 and Nov. 10 through Nov. 12 at the Dogtown Dance Theatre at 109 W. 15th Street. Showtime is at 8 p.m. except on Saturday, when show starts at 2 p.m. For information, go to groundzerodance.org, and for tickets go to brownpapertickets.com/event/203014.