Venus Rising, South Florida's All-Female Drum and Dance Group: "Twerking? That's African"
Photo by Niki Lopez
You were born to the pulsing pound of your momma's heart going thump. And today, the beat of a drum still brings you new life.
Now multiply that phenomenon by 22, and you've got the estrogenergetic force of Venus Rising, South Florida's premier all-female dance and drum group.
After a standing ovation at last year's Miami Music Festival From Around the World at FIU's Wertheim Concert Auditorium, these ladies are headlining once again. So we here at Crossfade caught up with the troupe's founder Zeva Soroker ahead of the October 25 show to find out what she thinks about Colombian rhythms, North African beats, and the orgins of twerking.
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Crossfade: What's the Miami Music Festival From Around the World gonna be like?
Zeva Soroker: It's gonna be amazing and fabulous. We have something very unique in South Florida. We're a company of 22, and we're all women percussionists and dancers. We do an hourlong show, where drum and dance choreographies from Africa meet the Middle East, Brazil, and the Caribbean.
How have you expanded your repertoire?
We're a West African dance and drum choreography group. But this year, we're doing an amazing Haitian piece, a Haitian social rhythm and dance. We're also going to be doing some Middle Eastern rhythms, and for the first time ever, a Colombian courtship rhythm and dance.
What's the significance of this type of perofrmance?
The roots of the music goes back to what we have to work with originally, our bodies and our voices. With the drums, it's amazing when you start to look around and see all the connections between all the cultures that use them around the world. It's like, Wow, all these different beats, they're all related. The name of our show is "One Pulse, Many Beats." There's all this diversity, yet at the same time, there's all this similarity. It's unifying. And our message is to use that as a place of celebration.
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Where'd it all come from?
Everything began in Africa. That's the birthplace of humankind. So that music, I believe, is the foundation of all music. And it just so happens a lot of the company started in the West African tradition, and we'll always come back to that. But we also wanna show how to dance South American, Caribbean, and ultimately everywhere.
What is the Middle Eastern style? Bellydancing?
It's often called bellydancing, but it's also North African, where the've got so many different traditions going on. We're unique. You kind of have to see us to believe. There's nothing that takes the place of being there physically, because then you really feel the power of the drums and the connection between the drums and the dancers. All dances are set to live music, so it's a great opportunity to see how the drums speak and how the dancers answer back. It's a great synchronous kind of a thing.
How do some of the dances of today, like booty dancing, call back to older traditions?
Twerking? That's African. It's all there. We're recreating. We're coming back to our common roots; the primal power of the body. And I think that's what our shows speak to, the raw drums and the live dancing that goes with them. I don't think there's anything else like it.
I saw one of your videos mentions that there have been people before who though that women shouldn't play drums?
There is still some attitude that's limited in its thinking about women, and that's one of the myths or something we hope to overcome. There's this whole wave of women drummers, like Les Amazons in Guinea who have killer Djembe players. And there's a Senegalese group full of Sabhar drummers. And we hope to be part of that to show that you can do anything you want. Even drums, if that's what moves you. And I hope people are encouraged to come on out and see it for themselves and see how wonderful it is.
How does the bass of the drums thumping affect people?
What was the first sound we all heard when we came into this world? The heart beat of our mothers. I think it takes us back to a wonderful place. There is sound with healing energy. Vibrations can heal the body. It's wonderful.
How do people join your group?
We have formal auditions throughout the year. We encourage people who have a background in drumming and dancing. We started out with just 3 drummers. Many have come and gone throughout our ten years, but we're always looking to increase our circle of sisters. We lovve connecting with other women artists. You can contact us through our website at VenusRising.net, and we also have a facebook and a youtube channel. And our office number is 954-753-9491.
Do you teach drums?
Yes, I teach classes every Saturday in Hollywood at the Goddess Store from 7:30-8:30a.m. Everyone's welcome. All levels.
What kind of drums are in the show?
Djembe, jun jun, shordows, shakers, claves, googobells, zills, finger cymbals
What are your goals for the future?
Expanding this idea. My dream is one day to have a little bit of everything: Japanese Taiko drumming, Indian traditional drums...so many traditions to explore. We have one new member from Colombia and that was a big push this year to perform the Cumbia to honor her.
How does that rhythm relate to everything else?
In the interplay of differences between traditions like those in Peru and Argentina, where you really hear the differences, but find the points of commonality. Cumbia is very similar or evocative of Cumuna in Jamaica. They have different feelings, but you can see similar patterns. And that's the kind of thing that gets me really excited.
When and where is the festival?
It's October 25th at the Wertheim Concert Hall. The acoustics are really wonderful there. It's the 3rd Annual Miami Music Festival From Around The World. It's our second year to be invited. Last year we had a standing ovation. It's a wonderful opportunity to see a variety of groups from Miami representing all different musical styles. It's great because it mirrors one of the things we're chasing, which is diversity of music. I just feel so blessed to be part of this ensemble with so many creative and talented women. Shout out to each and every one of them! And click here for a direct link to buy a ticket.
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