Why Setting a Dance About Apartheid on American Dancers Makes Sense Right Now
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
Indumba refers to a hut used by Sangoma, or a traditional healer, in South Africa for healing and cleansing in a sacred place. Tshabalala had conducted research for the piece in Maputo, Mozambique, where he learned about cleansing rituals that took place after the civil war there. "Veterans were cleansed traditionally, because they believe they carried bad spirits that might affect the community," he says.
"Indumba could help in cleansing." Photo by Ken Carl, via bam.org
He welcomed the chance to create an American-focused version for DRDT because he believes that "the impact of apartheid is the same as what America is experiencing internally…America is going through a social and political transformation and, Indumba could help in cleansing."
Indumba is intensely improvisational and is based on artists working together through movement and dialogue in "an open choreographic process" to create their own Indumba—their own sacred place to express their freedom and "to be different from the outside world," says Tshabalala.
Working with the dancers of DRDT proved special in reckoning this charge. "It was a matter of giving them an opportunity to release what was inside through movement and putting that into an existing structure."
To watch his African-American dancers work with Tshabalala's South African dancers, Jeff says, "it felt like home."
Indumba runs at BAM Fisher in Brooklyn, New York, April 28 and 29.
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.