By Nora Chipaumire
Preview by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
With “Portrait of Myself as My Father,” Zimbabwe-born dancer-choreographer Nora Chipaumire tackles our idea of masculinity with her fearless investigation of Africa and the black body. Chipaumire looks at the African male through many lenses: cultural traditions, colonialism, Christianity and liberation struggles. How has the African male’s turbulent experience impacted African society and families? What is it about the black male body that can challenge and frighten us?
A simulated boxing ring will be created onstage and within it Nora Chipaumire and Sénégalese performer, Pap Ibrahima Ndiaye (“Kaolack”), are tethered together in a sinuous laboratory of heart, sweat and muscle. Shamar Wayne Watt joins them in the ring as the coach/corner man/cheerleader. In addition, the boxing ring will be filled with the languages of Africa — Chipaumire’s Shona from her native Zimbabwe and Kaolack’s Wolof dialect from Sénégal. With this unconventional setting, Chipaumire challenges our customary relationship to live performance and unravels our expectations. She applies her typically bold strokes to this turbulent canvas. According to Dance Magazine, “Chipaumire has become a rock star…with a majestic quality that blows everything else out of the water.”
The evening will also include a screening of “Afro Promo #1: Kinglady,” a film created by Ms. Chipaumire as part of Peak Performances’ newly launched “Dance for Film on Location at Montclair State University,” a 3 1/2-year project underwritten by a $450,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The first Dance for Film project, Heidi Latsky’s acclaimed “Soliloquy,” was presented last year.
“One of the exciting aspects of this project is that the camera will not be used as a tool to document a performance, but rather as a collaborator to create a dance especially for film,” said Jedediah Wheeler, Peak Performances’ Executive Director. “The choreographer and the cinematographer will work as artistic co-pilots. The resulting films, 10 to 15 minutes in length, are created on campus at Montclair State with significant participation from the University’s College of the Arts, School of Communication and Media, and the Creative Research Center. They are available both for live audiences and on-demand through digital recordings.” Chipaumire collaborated with cinematographer Ben Wolf and film editor Alla Kovgan on the creation of “Afro Promo #1: Kinglady.”