Bienvenue is an interdisciplinary dance performance commissioned by La MaMa Theatre’s 55th Anniversary Season. It examines the willingness to share space with ethnicities immigrating to one’s country and the changes resulting from each new inclusion, addressing current global and local events during this time of prevailing frontier identity. Centered in reconciliation, Bienvenue highlights that everyone arrived here from elsewhere under different circumstances but all are now part of these United States. It explores the paranoia, terror and competition influencing citizens to prohibit US access from the borders down to local neighborhood school districts.
Original choreography is paired with an original sound composition from composer Paul Damian Hogan, whose repertoire includes work acquired by The Whitney Museum to collaborative work with the eighth blackbird ensemble. His score will scrutinize tensions between composed and improvised music, a metaphor for the relationship between detention and freedom. Predictable rhythmic cycles mix with fluid textures and slow heartbeat-like dirges adorn the work with uneasy clusters sliding microtonally in restricted pitch spaces. Acoustic instruments (percussion, strings, etc.) share the spectrum with blurry electronic timbres. Moments of chaos are juxtaposed with periods of calm introspection. A New Music Grant will allow this musical exploration to continue.
The process of composition is collaborative. Elemental mood and structural frameworks are discussed, then composed and recorded. The dance is developed with these basic musical seeds and then the composition is expanded with evolving dance movements as inspiration. An abstract narrative develops as music and dance interact throughout the compositional process. The physical-musical identity is the through line that drives the choreographic process.
Bienvenue’s dynamic aural relationship between contemporary classical and electronic vernacular alongside the physical tension of being bound, stagnant, by space, reveals prevailing human patterns in the relationships between conflict and resolution, illuminating what it means to migrate now. From an audience member’s arrival into the performance space until they leave it, the score embraces them.
Bienvenue is the intersection of visual, musical and physical arts. Through an original interactive installation created by Benjamin Heller and the creative community, Bienvenue takes place in a vast space and repurposes the basic vessel identity of the cardboard box.
Audience members arriving at the theatre will contribute to the ongoing identity by adding their own artwork. The community’s direct participation helps to create the patchwork surface on which their family trees and histories in the US are written or drawn and makes this piece as relevant to the global political environment as it is to the changing local landscape of New York’s Lower East Side where the creation and performance will take place.
Showings include a public work-in-progress show at University Settlement on April 21, 2017 and four public performances in The Ellen Stewart Theatre during La MaMa Moves Festival, May 25-28, 2017. La MaMa has a longstanding reputation for providing refuge to artists from over 70 different countries, many where artistic voices are at risk. A national and international tour is pending in 2017-18.