Voices of Strength: Contemporary Dance & Theater by Women from Africa is the U.S. debut tour of a two-evening program that lets American audiences experience the stylistic diversity of contemporary performance across the African continent. Created and performed by Nelisiwe Xaba (South Africa), Kettly Noël (Haiti/Mali), Nadia Beugré (Côte d’Ivoire), Bouchra Ouizguen (Morocco) and Maria-Helena Pinto (Mozambique), the works in Voices of Strength use humor, irony, poignancy and power to confront personal obstacles, address political and social issues, and paint true and vivid pictures of the lives of contemporary African women.
Over the past decade, we have traveled to numerous festivals showcasing contemporary performance by African artists, seeing few women represented at these important forums. Then, in May 2008, we attended the biennial Danse l’Afrique Danse Festival in Tunisia. Amongst the performances we saw there, what stood out was the strength, eloquence and originality of a handful of works created and performed African women. We were immediately inspired to find a way to bring them to the United States.
It took four years, but we’ve done it! Curating and producing Voices of Strength has taken countless emails and phone calls, meetings and negotiations, production questions and visa applications. We’re deep into the planning and logistics of the six-week tour this fall, and thrilled by the recent rehearsal residency in Brussels that we secured for the artists—the first time all of them were together on one stage!
We have a stellar group of U.S. venues ready to host these artists. But even with their support, and with the commitment of a small group of funders, the hefty travel budget for five choreographer/dancers, three singers, a sound artist, a company manager, and a three-person technical crew moving between Africa, Europe and the U.S. has put us $12,000 short of meeting the tour’s expenses, potentially compromising the full artistic realization of this ground-breaking project.
Please help us to reach our goal to bring four amazing dance-theater works to the U.S. as they deserve—and need—to be seen. What’s more, you’ll be helping to introduce people across the U.S. to important cultural leaders who have had an impact in their own communities through their leadership in arts education and civic development. In addition to performances, in every city there will be a rich program of conversation and exchange about the artistic and personal challenges met by these women in embodying their full humanity. So your contribution to MAPP for Voices of Strength makes you a partner in cultivating a necessary cross-border, cross-cultural dialogue.
Your donation to Voices of Strength will help bring these important works to stages in six cities across the U.S.:
- The Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago; Chicago, IL (September 10-16)
- New York Live Arts; New York, NY (September 17-23)
- Seattle Theatre Group; Seattle, WA (September 24-30)
- The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Washington, DC (October 1-7)
- The Walker Art Center; Minneapolis, MN (October 8-14)
- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; San Francisco, CA (October 15-21)
- Correspondances by Nelisiwe Xaba (South Africa) and Kettly Noël (Haiti/Mali) – a raucous conversation that speaks to the intimate fabric of friendship while traversing themes of race, culture and gender.
- Madame Plaza by Bouchra Ouizguen (Morocco) – a merging of dance with song by Ouizguen and three traditional “Aïta” vocalists (in a very rare U.S. appearance) that celebrates an essential freedom of the body.
- Sombra (“Shadow”) by Maria-Helena Pinto (Mozambique) – a stark and poignant solo imagining women who dream, create, construct, organize and execute, but exist in shadow.
- Quartiers Libres (“free territory”) by Nadia Beugré (Cote d’Ivoire) – one woman’s persistent pursuit to penetrate forbidden spaces and overcome real and perceived limitations to her freedom of expression. Giving up is not an option.
Using art to communicate, and the theater as a place to converge around a model of diversity, Voices of Strength will create awareness of the countries and people of Africa as much more than the perennially troubled lands we see through the media’s lens. Rather, experiencing the innovative artistry and imaginative leadership of these women, we will all share in building a language for tomorrow’s global culture.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT OF VOICES OF STRENGTH!
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