Sunday, December 15, 2002

Journey (Ohio Dance Theatre)

Lorain County's Ohio Dance Theatre at CPH

Denise Gula is a fascinating woman. She is not only a creative choreographer, but, fighting against the odds, she has become a very successful dance producer. Her Ohio Dance Theatre, which is housed in Oberlin, is taking a giant leap forward when it presents three performances of 'JOURNEY' at the Cleveland Play House. The piece, an original work of musical theatre, chronicles the historical, emotional and spiritual evolution of African Americans from slave days to the present.

The fact that this is a theatrical dance piece should be of no surprise to Gula’s many followers. From her years as a dancer and performer at Karamu House, to her North Ridgeville High School acting days, to her successful career as an actress, director and founder of the Lorain Community College dance program, and choreographing of many community theatre musicals, she has always combined her acting and dancing background in her work.

'JOURNEY' has been a four-year labor of love. As Gula says, “Like so many projects in this arts climate, it was born of necessity. Financial constraints compelled me to develop a piece using the only dancer I had, a dancer who happened to be black.” She goes on to state, “I thought of making a celebration for Black History Month. Brian Lankar’s photo book about black women 'I DREAM A WORLD' was the source of visual inspiration.”

Capsule judgement: The original piece was 35-minutes long. Now, it is a full-length production. And, it is a production of substance. As one reviewer stated, “this ia a fast-paced show that is worthy of being done on a national basis.” Knowing Gula, and her past history of confronting issues straight on, don’t be surprised if a national production doesn’t follow!