(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – On Saturday, August 25, 2012, at 8 pm, after a two week-long residency at MASS MoCA, renowned choreographer and dancer Nora Chipaumire, former associate artistic director of Urban Bush Women, works with an all-star team including acclaimed Grammy Award-nominated 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 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.
Omar Sosa’s score – performed live at MASS MoCA – 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.
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).
Chipaumire 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 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.”
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.