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BWW Review: BODYBUSINESS by Sydnie L. Mosley Dances


Artist-in-Resident Sydnie L. Mosley premiered BodyBusiness as part of the Performance Project at University Settlement. This experiential work explored the issues, ideas, and solutions regarding how dancers can make a living off meaningful work. Part marketplace, part performance, and part practical resource sharing, BodyBusiness was more than just a performance piece--it was a revolutionary way of building and uplifting the dance community.

The evening began with the marketplace. Its inclusion was every bit a part of the piece, even being named in the program as "Movement I: The Marketplace." The vendors varied each night, with artists services on the first night, health services on the following, and small businesses (co-curated by Ladies Love Project) on the last. As the performance section of the evening neared, the dancers entered the room, not to clear the space but to share it. Some dancers warmed up with audience members, taking part in trust-building exercises along with stretching. During the run's final performance, the party music turned up and it seemed as if the entire audience got up and danced. It was a fun, enjoyable, and memorable moment, where the lines between dancer and audience blurred; those lines would continue to blur for the rest of the evening.

As "Movement II: Our Stories" took place, the audiences viewed a Buzzfeed-style video by Damel Dieng, with assistance by Simone Sobers, which featured the dancers moving along with graphics and narration depicting the economics of concert dance. Although set with a much more comedic tone, it was appalling to see the figures that projected on the screen, declaring how dancers are overworked, underpaid, and spending less time in their creative field. The audience was then introduced to Artistic Director Sydnie L. Mosley via song and dance, who then casually introduced herself and her dancers. One by one they spoke of their first time setting foot on the dance floor, the moment that changed their lives forever.

Tchaikovsky then rang through the air and the dancers playfully moved. Their talent, however, is no laughing matter; their lines and execution were flawless as they gracefully twirled and whirled around. In between movement phrases, the dancers called a "time out" to explain themselves, to share their struggles and sacrifices. They also shared stories such as how difficult it is to be true to themselves, how they flipped flopped between dancing and not seeing, and how they resolved to keep dancing despite not fitting the mold. Soon the hustle began to manifest itself in the movement. With sweeps and cartwheels, the floor transformed into a caged rat race. The choreography was non-stop, illustrating the pace at which dancers often live their lives.

The performance then peaked at a point where Mosley called her own "time out" to tell the dancers, "I see you." At that time the piece introduced an exercise, where audience members and dancers engaged in trust falls. As the dance went back into performance mode, the dancers called out "Me" one by one, signaling their need to be caught when falling. They didn't call out every time and often fell to the floor, but when they did call, they were always helped.

The final piece of the evening was "Movement III: Resource Sharing," where audiences reflected on their own gifts and talents and publicly announced what they had to offer to the people present. From open invitations to homes abroad, massages, and sales and marketing advice, the place was on fire as the audience members mingled. It was only fitting to the end the evening in community.

BodyBusiness by Sydnie L. Mosley gave dancers a venue to literally and artistically share their voice. Dancers so often tell the stories of others; here they finally told their own. The piece very appropriately premiered at University Settlement, America's first community center, where labor organizers gathered to demand a life worth living and jobs that wholly supported it. BodyBusiness was not just about the dancers, but the community that supported it. Whether as dancer, vendor, or audience member, each person had a role in BodyBusiness and the stories that were told and continued to be told, uplifting the community each step (and fall) along the way.

Photo Credit: Ferima Faye Haidara, Whitney Browne

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