Grantee Spotlight

April 2014: Loco7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company

Loco7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company
All Photos are by Richard Greene

Federico Restrepo founded Loco7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company, a non-profit experimental arts organization, in 1986 to expand the use of puppetry in dance theatre. The company explores the junction of race, culture, history, art, media and technology in New York and throughout the global community by developing and promoting creative productions of dance, theatre, puppets, visual arts, multimedia and other forms. Loco7 provides an artistic home and a professional foundation for a multi-cultural group of performers, designers and theatre artists who collaborate with the company on a project basis.

Restrepo, a native of Bogotá, Colombia, cites his intense love and passion for the history of the Americas and his journeys in New York as a constant source of inspiration for his work as an artist. With Loco7 and support from LaMaMa, he has premiered fourteen original pieces in New York City, with subsequent tours throughout the world. With these works, Restrepo has endeavored to incorporate social issues with music, dance, words and visuals of all types to transcend traditional stage performance, and bring a broader theatrical experience to light.

Since 1986, Loco7's mission has been to develop the use of puppetry as an instrument for the dancer, a style that incorporates dance and design. Utilizing original rhythmic music, live musicians, dancers, body puppets and larger than life marionettes, the company’s objective is to merge these various elements and to weave a choreography that extends beyond the body of the dancer.

Loco7’s new work, “Seucy and Boto: Stories fro the Amazon Jungle” translates an ancient South American myth for children. Restrepo notes that mythology can be tricky to translate for children, because the subject matter can be very brutal, but with “Seucy and Boto,” Loco7 aims to adapt the core messages of the myths instead of the literal narrative. The production features a mix of dancers, actors and puppeteers, many of whom are new to the company, alongside long-time company members, including: Hope Kroog, Kiku Sakai, Quimen Sanchez, Katie Ostrowski, Giacomo Rochini, Jeanne Lauren Smith, Soukeina El Isbihani, Chriz Zaborowski (musician), and Denise Greber, who will co-write and produce.

“Seucy and Boto” will be featured as a part of LaMaMa Kids, a series of creative workshops and performances for the young and the young at heart, on April 19, 2014 at 11:00AM. For information and tickets, please visit lamama.org

March 2014: Dzul Dance

Dzul Dance
Javier Dzul – Photo Credit: Acey Harper

Javier Dzul, Artistic Director of Dzul Dance, was born and raised in a Mayan tribal community in southern Mexico performing ritual dances, speaking Mayan and studying ancient teachings until the age of sixteen. As a ritual dancer, he learned to transform his body into different animals and elements as a means to communicate with Mayan gods and nature. In response to the changing political climate regarding the indigenous populations, Dzul moved to Xalapa, Veracruz to study dance and learn the Spanish language.

In 2003, Dzul formed Dzul Dance with a mission to fuse multiple dance forms with aerial arts and contortion as a means to communicate indigenous pre-Hispanic, Mexican, and Latin culture and to create bridges between contemporary art and historical heritage. The work of the company draws on Mayan art, emphasizing the significance of details found in Mayan glyphs and ancient drawings, and aiming to mirror that detailed symbolism through choreography. Dzul Dance focuses on the drama and beauty of the natural world and human condition by combining different physical disciplines to revitalize ancient culture in a modern world.

Dzul Dance became a not-for-profit organization in 2012, and has been presented throughout New York and Mexico, as well as in South America, Europe, Canada, Asia and the Virgin Islands. They have been presented by institutions such as the United Nations, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian and Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada), and they have participated in international festivals including Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland), Festival Internacional Cervantino (Mexico), Bard College Summerscape and MexicoNow (NYC). In 2005, Dzul established the Dzul Dance Community & Youth Outreach Program, since then bringing the artistry and vocabulary of Dzul Dance to over 7,000 young people in six countries in communities with limited or no access to the performing arts. Youth and community outreach are a vital part of Dzul’s vision as an artist, teacher and creator.

Mexico Maya was created in 2013 to celebrate Dzul Dance’s ten-year anniversary. The evening length choreography offers glimpses of the journey of an artist from the rain forest of southern Mexico to the metropolis of New York and how it has shaped the vision of his dance company. Mexico Maya will be presented at El Museo del Barrio as part of their Sabado series on Saturday, March 15th at 4:00pm. The event is free and open to the public, and no tickets or reservations are necessary. For more information about Javier Dzul and Dzul Dance, please visit www.dzuldance.com.

January 2014: Judy Tate

Judy Tate

The American Slavery Project (ASP) began as a project of The New Black Fest as a theatrical response to historical revisionism in the American discourse around slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow. The project was conceived in recognition of the controversy surrounding the celebration of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial. ASP responded by producing a 5-play reading series with a mission to support African American writers writing about the Civil War era as well as to create new work, start conversations within the community, and to give educational workshops.

Judy Tate transitioned ASP to an independent project. Tate’s work as a playwright creates fictional worlds in historical eras with the specific goal of examining what the world was like before certain ideas that are considered self-evident today took hold, and the implications of those ideas’ adoption – personal, social and political. With the support of a 2013 Fund for Creative Communities grant, she developed “Unheard Voices,“ ASP’s first original work, a collectively written monologue play based on the 419 burials discovered nearly 25 years ago in Lower Manhattan in what had been colonial New York’s African Burial Ground. ASP commissioned seventeen well-known African American writers to study the era, examine the archives at the New York Historical Society and the African Burial Ground Museum, and choose a single burial to commemorate by imagining the life of the person buried within. There are no extant records of the deceased, however archaeologists were able to determine age ranges and genders. In creating simple monologues about the imagined daily lives of these unknown people, “Unheard Voices” sought to bring an individualized humanity to the monolithic themes that define the contemporary ideas of slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Last spring, Tate returned to LMCC as an applicant to the Creative Curricula program, proposing to adapt the model used to develop “Unheard Voices” for high school students in collaboration with Wanda Caine, a teacher at Manhattan Theater Lab. After bringing students to see a performance of “Unheard Voices” at the New York Historical Society, The American Slavery Project: High School Lab guided them through the same process that the professional playwrights had used. After researching the Civil War era, students chose a burial from which to create an imagined character and the world in which that character lived. Tate noted that one core lesson for students was that they were not simply trying to explain the death of the person whose burial plot they chose, but instead they were trying to give voice to and honor the lives of the unknown men, women, and children who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan during the colonial era. Throughout the writing process, guest artists were brought in to support the student playwrights, and at the end of the workshop series, the students and their school experienced professional actors performing the final monologues.

January 2014: Bamboo Sculptures: Exploring Patterns in Nature

Bamboo Sculptures: Exploring Patterns in Nature
Bamboo Sculptures: Exploring Patterns in Nature Fall 2013. Fifth graders at the PS 126 Manhattan Academy of Technology building the collaborative bamboo sculpture in the school courtyard. Photo credit: Kathy Bruce

With her Creative Curricula project, Bamboo Sculptures: Exploring Patterns in Nature, Kathy Bruce worked with 30 fifth grade students at PS 126 MAT in Chinatown to investigate the aesthetic consideration of line, shape, scale and space by fabricating bamboo structures based on geometric patterns found in nature. Bruce worked with the school art teacher in consultation with math and technology teachers to develop this multidisciplinary project that evolved through daily 50-minute sessions over a 2-month period. Students learned about the geography, biology and history of bamboo as well as its various uses in contemporary building and design industries.

Bruce began working with bamboo as a sculptural medium in her own artistic practice after seeing the construction of torres (firework towers) at festivals in Peru. Working with bamboo instead of wood provided many practical as well as aesthetic advantages for Bruce’s sculptures. She found that bamboo’s environmental constitution, availability, flexibility, and cost were extremely beneficial. Bamboo lends itself easily to the use of hand tools, limiting electrical consumption and allowing a non-invasive approach to creating artwork outdoors within the natural environment. Bruce’s site-specific bamboo sculptures explore archetypal female forms within the context of environmental issues. Her works allude to universal female symbols, as they appear in ancient history and the earliest civilizations, interpreted within a contemporary context. Each of Bruce’s sculptures draw upon factors such as the geographic location, climate and ecosystem of the site, drawing inspiration from earth mounds and organic structures and their relationship to natural life cycles.

With the support of the Creative Curricula program, it became possible for Bruce to provide the “sculptural” materials for this project that would otherwise have been too costly for the school arts program. Bruce noted that by the end of the project, even the most initially challenged students were able to build basic geometric structures with bamboo. Bamboo Sculptures: Exploring Patterns in Nature culminated in a celebration of the collaborative student sculpture titled “Arch of Triangles,” which will remain in the MAT school courtyard for the whole community to enjoy until the end of the school year.

Students also took a class fieldtrip to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens where, using maps, they identified ten species of live bamboo growing in situ. Students documented their observations by measuring width and estimating the height of the bamboo stalks, and the described or drew the characteristics of each. This trip was a first time experience for most of the students, who live near the school in Chinatown.

December 2013: Raquel Z. Rivera and Ojos de Sofia

Raquel Z. Rivera and Ojos de Sofia
Photo credit: Marisol Diaz

Raquel Z. Rivera brings her passion for story with her interest in questioning ethnic, national, and racial boundaries within the culture of the Caribbean and its diaspora into her work as a singer-songwriter and bandleader. Las Décimas del Amargue & Other Songs of Love has very personal ties to Rivera, who wrote these songs at the same time that she wrote her first novel, titled Beba: A Fake Memoir. Some of the songs are either part of the novel or were written from the perspective of the novel’s narrator and main character, Beba.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rivera witnessed firsthand the social prejudice between the Puerto Rican and Dominican communities and has dedicated her work, both as a scholar and as a songwriter, to questioning the artificial boundaries of ethnicity, race and nationality raised around cultural expressions.

In 2007, Rivera began exploring the cultural intersection between Puerto Rican and Dominican musical traditions with guitarist and cuatro player Alejandro Negrón. Having previously worked with percussion collectives, this collaboration with strings transformed her work. Rivera later joined forces with guitarist and musical director, Bryan Vargas to form the band, Ojos de Sofia. With her current project, Las Décimas del Amargue & Other Songs of Love, the overriding themes are the commonalities between Puerto Rican and Dominican traditions. Using music as a sociological tool, Rivera mines musical tradition to discover cultural connections between these seemingly disparate communities. In addition to these broader sociological implications, the body of work of Ojos de Sofia is guided by Rivera’s playful-mindedness and dedicated feminism.

This project focuses on the use of the décimas poetic tradition among Puerto Ricans and Dominicans as well as the connections between “jibaro music,” “bachata,” and “boleros” in both cultures. Las Décimas also expresses the conflict between Rivera’s love for the musical genres that inspired the songs and her exasperation with a sexist melodramatic bent she sees in both genres. The result is creative musical arrangements and quirky lyrics that playfully challenge folkloric and popular music’s approaches to love and loss.

This is the second time that LMCC has supported Raquel for her work musically investigating the intersections between these two cultural traditions. In 2010, Raquel Z. Rivera and Ojos de Sofia received their first Manhattan Community Arts Fund grant to support their project, Las 7 salves de La Magdalena/7 Songs of Praise for Mary Magdelene. Las 7 salves was an earlier exploration of the musical and religious intersections between the Dominican “salves” genre and the Puerto Rican “seis,” “aguinaldos,” and “bomba” genres.

Las Décimas will also feature Dominican guitarist Yasser Tejeda as well as Rivera’s sister, Anabellie Rivera, who will sing a few classic boleros. A free public educational talk/workshop led by Rivera together with Dominican poet Dagoberto Lopez will be offered at The Center for Puerto Rican Studies Library, to give historical context to the decima form and its cultural roots, and to share the basics of composing and singing decimas.

Dates and Times
December 7, 2013 at 3:00-4:00PM (Workshop in English)
December 8, 2013 at 3:30-5:00PM (Concert)
December 9, 2013 at 5:00-7:00PM (Workshop in Spanish)

Location
December 7th Workshop:
The Center for Puerto Rican Studies Library, Louis and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College
2180 Third Avenue and 119 Street, New York, NY 10035

December 8th Concert:
St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery Performance Space
131 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003

December 9th Workshop:
Dominican Studies Institute, North Academic Center, Room 2/202
The City College of New York, 160 Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10035

Tickets
The workshop events are free.
The concert event is a $10 suggested donation.

More Information:
www.ojosdesofia.com

October 2013: Kenji Williams

Kenji Williams

Multidisciplinary artist, Kenji Williams, was classically trained in violin from a very young age, and developed a unique compositional style through a variety of projects including film scores, ambient and dance music, and touring with diverse bands from dub reggae to techno and world music. Williams is also an accomplished filmmaker, directing and producing many award-winning films presented by the CSC and Sundance. In the last ten years of his artistic practice, Williams has been focusing on fusing his visual arts, music, and live performance work into a unified experience. In 2003, he composed and directed a multimedia project called Worldspirit, which combined Williams’ music with animated paintings and spoken word poetry performed by painter Alex Grey. Worldspirit evolved and grew into the Bella Gaia project.Bella Gaia, or “Beautiful Earth,” was originally inspired by a conversation Williams had with NASA astronaut Mike Finke about how seeing the Earth from space profoundly changed him. Bella Gaia began as an endeavor to see how that same transformation could be artistically simulated for earthbound audiences, but has since become a long-term, constantly changing, touring collaboration with NASA scientists and educators, as well as top world musicians such as Yumi Kurosawa, Deep Singh, Kristin Hoffman, and Lety ElNaggar. In its current form, Bella Gaia uses a combination of live music, immersive images and data visualizations of the Earth to illustrate the beauty and fragility of our home planet. Bella Gaia is a living piece of media that continually evolves allowing the performances to include current events, such as major wildfires as seen from space, and to include different customizable content, such as the incorporation of Shinto and Buddhist music, featured in the Bella Gaia incarnation at NYU Skirball Center earlier this year. For the Bella Gaia Planetarium Festival on November 22nd 360-degree experience for the new planetarium theater at the Lower East Side Girls Club’s new facility. In this performance, Williams performs solo violin alongside spectacular visuals and in collaboration with a small choir of young singers from LESGC performing as accompanist, composed and directed by John Del Cueto.

Dates and Times
November 22nd
7:30pm & 8:30pm

Location
Lower East Side Girls Club
402 East 8th street (@ Ave D)

Tickets
The event is free with RSVP, but a donation to the new Girls Club would be appreciated.
RSVP here

More Information:
www.bellagaia.com

September 2013: General Mischief Dance Theatre

General Mischief Dance Theatre
2013 MCAF Grantee General Mischief Dance Theatre’s “Buzz” Photo: Eileen O’Donnell

In 2004, choreographer Emily Smyth Vartanian, lighting designer Mark Baker and designer Adam Vartanian banded together to collaborate artistically on mischievous performance pieces. The trio formally incorporated in 2008 under the name General Mischief Dance Theatre with the goal of producing theatrical dance pieces that reinforce the power of joy and laughter in communicating ideas, as well as encouraging the natural human desire to move.

General Mischief Dance Theatre received their first Manhattan Community Arts Fund Grant from Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for their production Rascals Cavorting at the Connelly Theater in 2012, which employed narrative stories and interactive dances to appeal to audiences of all ages and levels of dance experience. General Mischief returned to LMCC this year for their upcoming production Three if by Air, which combines contemporary movement with high-flying bungees, yoga, and aerial silk and rope work to create a playful production for children and adults. Following its tradition of joviality and accessibility, General Mischief’s current production promises interactivity, games, mayhem, and mischief to reinforce the belief that joy in movement is universal.

Three if by Air features multiple premieres, including the world premiere of Suite Shel, a trio of dances inspired by the poems of Shel Silverstein. Suite Shel features the choreography of aerialist and choreographer Lisa Natoli of Lisa's Bright Ideas, Director and Tony-Nominated Producer Celine Rosenthal, and General Mischief's Artistic Director, Emily Vartanian. Each dance offers the unique perspective of its choreographer, in a playful twist on Silverstein’s creations. The production features performances by Jane Abbott, Troy Barnes, Dare Harlow, Alisa Fendley, Rachel Kaplove, Lisa Natoli, and Emily Smyth Vartanian.

True to the company’s mission to create and present theatrical dance works which engage audiences emotionally, socially, and kinesthetically, Three if by Air seeks to remind its audience of the power of dance as a joyful, transcendent experience. As with previous productions, after the Saturday performance General Mischief invites audiences to celebrate, discover, or rediscover their own expression through movement by joining the performers onstage for post-performance social dancing.

Dates and Times
Saturday, September 21st at 8PM
Sunday, September 22nd at 5PM

Location
Manhattan Movement and Arts Center
248 West 60th Street

Tickets
Tickets may be purchased online through Ticketfly.com for Saturday here or Sunday here
Tickets also available by phone at (877) 987-6487

August 2013: Less Than Rent Theatre presents Beckett in Benghazi

Less Than Rent Theatre presents Beckett in Benghazi


Now running through August 10th, LMCC grantee Less Than Rent Theatre presents the world premiere of Ben Diseren’s Beckett in Benghazi debuting at Under St. Marks and produced in association with Horse Trade Theater Group. Under the direction of founder and co-artistic director James Presson, Beckett in Benghazi is a biting satire of both 21st Century diplomacy and civilian treatment of foreign affairs, taking on the misuse of information in the “Information Age” and investigating how we, as Americans, talk about the Middle East. The piece considers the cyclical nature of US Imperialism and addresses it in the way that one might imagine Samuel Beckett would have – with comedy.

Diseren’s script introduces the audience to a beleaguered theatre troupe, days away from opening Beckett’s Endgame, who are pulled into the furor of a debate over the U.S. occupation of the Middle East. As their director whimsically shifts gears on the whole production, the troupe is forced to confront big issues, both political and personal, and ask big questions: Where does imperialism fit into the 21st century? How do we distinguish between sacred traditions and antiquated infringements of human rights? And when do we break for lunch?

Founded in 2010 with the production of Richard 3, a punk-Shakespeare fusion that premiered at La MaMa as part of FringeNYC, Less Than Rent aims to reach new audiences by creating work that is accessible and exciting. Past LTR projects have featured multimedia, dance and live music, have focused on themes such as teen violence, private sector headhunting, and substance abuse, and have been set in locations varying from the set of a sitcom to a dairy farm. Since its inception, Less Than Rent has presented eight full productions and six workshops, has employed over 125 theatre professionals, and has presented work at such venues as Walkerspace, La MaMa, The Wild Project, Theatre for the New City, Dixon Place, and The Brick Theater.

Beckett in Benghazi features performances by Julie Voshell (Movin’ Out; Pop), Becca Ballenger (American Stare), Adam Weppler (Waiting for Lefty with Roundabout; Puppet Hamlet), Rachel B. Joyce (Muskego Lake; Desire! A Varsouviana), Brendan McDonough (Three Sisters with The Assembly), and Patrick Dooley (Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart). Designs will feature sets by Dan Geggatt (Asuncion; Billy Witch), costumes by Jenni Meador, sound by Emily Auciello (The Dance and the Railroad at Signature Center), choreography by Jennifer Delac, and fight design by Cory Asinofsky (Richard 3).

Dates and Times
July 25 – August 10, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7PM

Location
Under St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place (Between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)

Tickets
Tickets may be purchased at www.horsetrade.info

Website
www.LessThanRent.org

July 2013: Tara Bracco hosts the 11th annual production of Poetic People Power

On Wednesday, July 31, LMCC grantee Tara Bracco hosts the 11th annual production of Poetic People Power. This year's show, Invisible Chains: Inequality in America, premieres new poems about inequality advances some groups of people while limiting others to the detriment of all. The theme of this year’s show was collaboratively chosen with participating artists. Writers showcase new works about their own experiences and thoughts on topics such as race, gender, and class. Returning poets include Tara Bracco, Nicole Goodwin, Karla Jackson-Brewer, Frank Antonio López, Scottt Raven, Shetal Shah, and Justin Woo, as new poets are Goodwin, Frank Antonio López, and Scottt Raven.

Poetic People Power is a NYC-based spoken word group that presents shows on timely social and political topics. It was founded in 2003 by Bracco to create an ongoing project that combines poetry and activism. The group uses the expressive art of poetry to educate audiences about the complex issues facing society. The shows creatively explore social and political topics, offering insight and possible solutions to issues that affect our everyday lives.

Previous Poetic People Power shows have focused on pay equity, universal health care, global warming, consumerism, and the global water crisis. Each year a diverse group of artists with varying poetry styles are commissioned to write a new poem on a specific topic to be presented to a public audience. Since its inception, Poetic People Power has presented 10 shows, worked with 25 poets, and commissioned 65 poems on social and political topics.

Wednesday, July 31 at 8 PM

Location:
The Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street (between avenues A & B).

Tickets
Tickets may be purchased here

June 2013: LMCC Grantee Eve Sicular and Isle of Klezbos

LMCC Grantee Eve Sicular and Isle of Klezbos
Photo credit: Angela Jimenez

On June 12, LMCC grantee Eve Sicular and her band Isle of Klezbos will present its 15th annual KlezBiGay Pride show, on the theme of Music for a Sustainable City. The soulful, fun-loving powerhouse klezmer sextet will play two music sets including genre-expanding original compositions as well as neo-traditional folkloric tunes, Yiddish swing and tango. This year's MC, Lisa Kron, is a Tony-nominated/Obie-award-winning playwright & actress, co-founder of The Five Lesbian Brothers. In addition, the show will include presentations on urban solar energy programs.

Formed in 1998, Isle of Klezbos now includes Debra Kreisberg (clarinet and alto saxophone), Pam Fleming (trumpet and flugelhorn), Melissa Fogarty (vocalist), Shoko Nagai (accordion and piano), Saskia Lane (upright bass), and Eve Sicular (drummer, bandleader and founder). The group's community and global concerns address the awareness of interconnected ecospheres and neighborhoods. The band's latest work draws sonic inspiration from such styles as Latin, jazz, reggae, and art song along with Eastern European-rooted music of Jewish heritage. The sextet has been featured in broadcasts from "CBS Sunday Morning" to "The L Word," and finds audiences among listeners from many cultural backgrounds, a broad spectrum of sexual and gender identities, and multiple generations.

Isle of Klezbos began celebrating "KlezBiGay Pride" in 1999, as a marker for NYC's special month of LGBT commemorative cultural events and festivities. The group has celebrated every June since with a new theme, in a dozen locations as far-flung as Vienna, Austria and Park Slope, Brooklyn. Isle of Klezbos has returned to the ensemble's East Village roots beginning at CB's 313 Gallery in the Bowery, with “KlezBiGay Pride” performances in El Sol Brillante Community Garden, featuring queer Jewish celebrity MC's including Jennifer "Circus Amok" Miller, Julian "February House" and Deb "Split Britches" Margolin at recent shows.

Dates and Times Wednesday, June 12, 7-9pm

Location El Sol Brillante Garden 522 East 12th Street (between Avenues A & B)

Rain location: The Jewish Community Center of Manhattan 334 Amsterdam Avenue at W 76th Street.

Tickets This event is free. No tickets necessary. For more information: http://www.klezbos.com

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