The 2012 La MaMa Moves! festival is taking a different step this year. Fewer companies, longer engagements, all works by female artists. But still chockablock with surprises wrapped in new dances including “Love Story, Palestine,” a powerful world premiere by Yoshiko Chuma; “Beauty,” a New York premiere by Jane Comfort; “Digital Duets,” a cross-continental world premiere made possible through the magic of digital media; the U.S. premiere of Ann Liv Young’s “Mermaid Show,” plus Chamber Works I and II, which features a series of premieres by Juliette Mapp, Maura Donahue, Yuko Takahashi. Now in its seventh year, the 2012 La MaMa Moves! festival runs May 9-20.
In “Love Story, Palestine,” Yoshiko Chuma, who is known to court danger and controversy far and wide, takes on the contemporary and painful story of Palestinians living in Ramallah. Integrating members of the Ramallah-based Palestinian dance troupe, El-Funoun, with members of her own company, School of Hard Knocks, Chuma combines film, contemporary dance, music, photographs, and interviews while constantly changing the audience’s spatial relation to the performers in order to replicate the sense of dislocation presently experienced by the Palestinians in Ramallah. Chuma describes the work as “framing theater with barbed wire.”
Another festival highlight is “Digital Duets,” during which dancers, musicians, spoken word artists and visual artists at Contact Theatre in Manchester, England and at La MaMa in New York City perform together via telepresence. Their ghost-like images collapse distance, collide and interact to create real time improvisations. Whitney Hunter and Ellen Fisher among others, will perform on this side of the pond. The magic is made possible through the groundbreaking work of CultureHub at La MaMa and is the culmination of three years of extensive experimentation and research with networked environments. ‘Digital Duets” is CultureHub’s public launch and marks the next step in La MaMa’s natural evolution as a pioneer of international collaboration. It is a network without borders.
Jane Comfort’s wickedly funny and savvy theater dance “Beauty” takes a sly look at the American ideal of female beauty and the obsessive search for perfection through Photoshopping, retouching, Botoxing, dieting to the extreme, and plastic surgery of all kinds. Sad, but true. And who is the symbol of perfection? None other than the Barbie doll, who inspires a Barbie beauty contest in the show during which random members of the audience are asked to vote on the most gorgeous. Ken is also part of the act with the two dolls’ stiff, robotic movement performed in counterpoint to the fully expressive dance vocabulary. Brandon Wolcott is the composer and sound designer.
Ann Liv Young, who has routinely provoked, tormented, and enraptured audiences, will do it all once again in the U.S. premiere of “Mermaid Show.” Young is, of course, the Mermaid, but one who challenges her audience’s passivity in her turn from the sweet Disney creation into a raw fish eating, spitting creature as she emerges from her blow-up pool.
Chamber Works I, a shared program, features Vicky Shick with Marilyn Maywald and guests in “So be it—not a piece—miniatures for five.” while Maura Donahue will perform in her solo, “present.tense (progressive),” and Juliette Mapp will perform her solo, “Dark Matter.” Chamber Works II features Yuko Takahashi Dance Company’s performances of “Kami no Tenbin” (Heaven’s Gate), “Carnage,” “Memory of Rain,” and “So Young, So Dear,” all premieres; Eunhee Lee’s “Silent Noise,” and Risa Jaroslow and Dancers in “The Middle of Where She Is.”
And finally, for young audiences, The East Village Dance Project will present contemporary dance works performed by area children and teenagers between four and eighteen years of age. The works are choreographed by EVDP Artistic Director Martha Tornay and faculty members Kiva Dawson, Lucas Rollins-Page, and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski.