Mass MoCA has announced that on Saturday, August 25, 2012, after a two week-long residency, renowned choreographer and dancer Nora Chipaumire works with an all-star team including acclaimed composer and pianist Omar Sosa, Long Wharf Theater associate artistic director Eric Ting, lighting designer Olivier Clausse, and dancer Okwui Okpokwasili to present a preview of Chipaumire’s newest work, Miriam. This deeply personal dance-theater performance looks closely at the tensions women face between public expectations and private desires; between selflessness and ambition; and between the perfection and sacrifice of the feminine ideal. The New York Times calls Chipaumire “an artist of ferocious intensity” and Dance Magazine says “Chipaumire has become a rock star of downtown dance, with a majestic quality that blows everything else out of the water.”
Ed. Note: While not quite finished works, these work in progress “showings” are always interesting to see. Some people are reluctant to spend an evening at one of these works-in-progress and worry that they will only get to see a part of the creative enterprise, not the finished work. For me, some of these experiences have been spellbinding, but I concede that there is a roll of the dice element about them too. A good way to approach previews is to try to find a video of earlier iterations of the project. After years of watching the process, I am beginning to sense that some artists never intend to finish their works. A few have become very adept at workshopping their way around the country for months and years. Just look at all the credits at the end of these sorts of announcements to see how it works. That’s why a video will at least give you a sampling of how you will spend your time. If you like the previous work, you are likely to enjoy the latest wrinkle in it, too. L.M.
Here is more from the Mass MoCA press release.
Sosa’s score exploits the physical space which contains Miriam as well as the cultural, artistic, and lived experiences of both himself and Chipaumire, while Clausse’s lighting design creates an interplay of light and shadow that calls to mind the site of a crime, a mysterious land, or a sacred place of ritual and retreat.
The inspiration for Miriam springs from Chipaumire’s southern African girlhood, her self-exile to the U.S., and her self-discovery as an artist. But Miriam also reverberates with other literary and legendary influences: the writings of Joseph Conrad and Chenjerai Hove; the life of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba; and the Christian iconography of Mary.
In performance, the persona embodied by Chipaumire emerges from a pile of rocks onstage to convey-through movement and text-a woman’s struggles with the burden of objectification and the weight of resistance. Her efforts are abetted and haunted by an otherworldly character, both angel and devil, performed by Okpokwasili.
Miriam is produced by MAPP International Productions and will premiere at Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (Portland, OR) in September 2012.
Born in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and currently a resident of New York City, Nora Chipaumire has been challenging stereotypes of Africa and the black performing body, art, and aesthetic for the past decade. She has studied dance in many parts of the world including Africa (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, and South Africa), Cuba, Jamaica, and the U.S. A graduate of the University of Zimbabwe’s School of Law, Chipaumire holds an M.A. in Dance and M.F.A. in Choreography and Performance from Mills College (CA).
Chipaumire is a 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts recipient and 2011 United States Artist Ford Fellow. She is also a two-time New York Dance and Performance (aka “Bessie”) Awardee: in 2008 for her dance-theater work, Chimurenga, and in 2007 for her body of work with Urban Bush Women, where she was a featured performer for six years (2003-2008) and also served as Associate Artistic Director (2007-2008). She is the recipient of the 2009 AFROPOP Real Life Award for her choreography in the film, Nora. She has also been awarded the 2007 Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award from Wesleyan University Center for the Arts, and a MANCC Choreographic Fellowship in 2007-2008.
The work-in-progress showing of Nora Chipaumire’s Miriam will take place at MASS MoCA on Saturday, August 25, at 8 PM. Tickets for the event are $15 or $10 for students. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 10 AM to 6 PM every day. Tickets can also be charged by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours, or purchased online at www.massmoca.org.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. MASS MoCA is an independent 501(c)(3) whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy. Except for an initial construction grant from the Commonwealth, and competitive program and operations grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MASS MoCA is privately funded: 90% of annual operating revenues are from earned revenues, membership support, and private gifts and grants.
Miriam has received generous support from: The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The New England Foundation for the Arts’ Production Residency for Dance Program, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The National Endowment for the Arts; The NPN Forth Fund; New Music USA’s Live Music for Dance Program.
Miriam is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in partnership with the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) and NPN. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency).
Miriam is also co-commissioned by Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY; Les Subsistances, Lyon, France; and Clarice Smith Performing Art Center, College Park, MD.
Miriam was created during a residency provided by The Joyce Theater Foundation, New York City, with major support from the Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Creative and production residencies are also being provided the Experimental Music and Performing Arts Center (Troy, NY), Brooklyn Academy of Music (Brooklyn, NY), MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA), Centro per la Scena Contemporanea/CSC (Bassano del Grappa, Italy), and Les Subsistances (Lyon, France).