Onye Ozuzu is a dance administrator, performing artist, choreographer, educator, and researcher currently serving as Dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts at Columbia College Chicago. Physically and choreographically, she has focused on the body as technology and negotiated the inter-sectionality between many movement forms from tennis to ballet, West African dance to Hatha Yoga, freestyle House to salsa, contemporary dance to Aikido. Actively presenting work since 1997, Ozuzu has presented work nationally and internationally at The Joyce Soho (Manhattan, NY), Kaay Fecc Festival Des Tous les Danses (Dakar, Senegal), La Festival del Caribe (Santiago, Cuba), Lisner Auditorium (Washington, DC), and McKenna Museum of African American Art (New Orleans, LA). She has performed locally in Chicago at Hamlin Park Summer Sampler, with Red Clay Dance in La Femme, and in the Afro-Latin@ Summer Dance Intensive at Columbia College Chicago. Ozuzu has been Artist in Residence at EarthDance Workshop and Retreat Center, Bates Dance Festival, Chulitna Wilderness Lodge and Retreat, and Lagos danceGATHERING in Lagos, Nigeria. Her collaboration with jazz composer Greg Ward, Touch My Beloved’s Thought, premiered at the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park (Chicago, IL)—a live dance and music performance in honor of Charles Mingus and commissioned by Links Hall and Constellation. Recently, Ozuzu was selected as a 2016 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist for which she has been developing “Project Tool.”
“Project Tool” is a dance performance installation in which Onye will build a collection of sprung wood dance floors. What is learned physically, emotionally, and conceptually in the process of building will become the material that is used to craft the performance.
This project stems from Ozuzu’s fascination with the inter-relationships between body, task, and tool. In collaboration with designer Steve Silber, Onye will build a number of hexagonal sprung wood floors that can be arranged and configured in numerous ways to transform many different types of spaces into places where performance (dance performance, particularly) can happen.
The act of building this floor will explore the use of tools as if they are partners in a dance with the body. With this project, I’m interested in crafting a live performance that is meaningful to watch, think, and talk about while also leaving behind a physical artifact, a resource that can be used by dancers and dance presenters all over the city. This project will also carry on through my body and the bodies of other dancers who participate through the skills and know-how to make the floors upon which we dance and the opportunity to channel that practicality into our artistic practices.
“Project Tool”’s creative process will yield the following products:
(1) The performance: I and two other dancer/builder/performers will engage in the act of building. The building will become stylized over time through improvisation, projected images, original sound compositions, spoken dialogue, and text. The performance will begin with the “building of” these floors and evolve over the course of 6-9 months into “performing on” these floors. We will from time to time host guest dancers and companies. Their participation will include an invitation to have their names carved into the bottom of the floors, granting them access to borrow the floors freely in the future.
(2) The floors: a collection of modular sprung wood dance floors, archived at the Rebuild Foundation in Hyde Park, will be available to be borrowed for use by dancers and choreographers throughout the city of Chicago.