DREAM TEAM: Ebanks and Pryce, photographed inside the National Galley. Below, Ebanks in a scene from "Becoming."
"I love performing his work," says Neila Ebanks of collaborating with friend and fellow dancer-choreographer Oneil Pryce, whose spellbinding, transcendent piece "Becoming" was rapturously performed by Ebanks inside the National Gallery on Sunday afternoon, as part of Kingston on the Edge. "I think somehow he sees into my cell, into myself also, and whatever he gives me I am able to sort of absorb it like a sponge. It's really lovely doing his work."
For Pryce, a senior with the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), there's hardly a better fit than Ebanks to breathe full-bodied life into the types of passionate dance solos he has a knack for devising. And for what it's worth I think they make a terrific duo, two creative souls seemingly drawn together by their devotion to dance theatre, among other things, I'm sure. "Neila has always been like a muse for me because the way that I work and my process is exactly how she engages. And it's never difficult; she comes with the right questions," Pryce explains. "And she allows me to be aware. She's very open and honest in terms of her engagement."
A work-in-progress, "Becoming," which actually had its debut earlier this year at a contemporary dance fest in Tobago, explores, as Pryce points out, the state of "being traumatized, being broken and trying to put yourself together again, but not being sure of how to approach things in your life and the world."
Fully present in the moment, a white-clad Ebanks (accompanied by a watery score) writhes and contorts her lithe frame around the space before finally covering herself with miles of white fabric and then, quite dramatically, breaking free with a fierce sprint. "I've always wanted to work in the National Gallery," she tells me. "Every time I come here I see dance all over the place, and I'm so glad that they asked me to [do this performance.] I think It's a wonderful space for movement."
Now in her mid-late 30s, Ebanks, who teaches at the School of Dance (Edna Manley College), says she's making her way to the 40 mark with ample excitement and gusto. "I am feeling good," she confides about her life at the moment. Looking ahead, though, she makes it clear that it's time to shake things up, at least in the creative sense. "There are a number of other kinds of projects that are not necessarily theatre-related but are definitely dance-based that I'm gonna deal with. Photography and dance and so on," she says. "So I've been looking at a lot of collaborations with people.... I really want to expand the concept of what dance can be and where it can be found."