One year after You Got Served brought dance floor battles to the silver screen in 2004, Nora Chipaumire was awarded a New York Dance and Performance Award for bringing a much deeper conflict to life through her dance. Her work, titled Chimurenga, will be presented at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse on January 20 and 21 as a co-production of Miami Dade College's MDC Live! Performing Arts Series. The piece is a performance memoir that depicts the artist's personal experiences growing up during Zimbabwe's second War of Liberation. Through movement, music, and theater, she conveys the confrontations and charged atmosphere of Southern Africa during her childhood.
Chipaumire is a self-exiled artist who emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 and has studied dance formally and informally in Zimbabwe, Cuba, Jamaica, and California, where she received an M.A. and M.F.A. in choreography and performance from Mills College in Oakland. Her show at the Light Box will include three separate pieces: Chimurenga, Dark Swan, and Miriam.
Dark Swan is a piece that takes expectations of African dance performance (specifically, drums and fierce movements, according to the artist), and turns them on their heads. She started with a classic European ballet, Black Swan. "And I sort of had my way with it," Chipaumire said. "Yes, I am born and raised in Africa, and yes I am African. I'm not running away from that. But there is a real confusion in what is African. African is also contemporary and avant garde. And so I started at that point, at being fed up with labels being put on who I am and the expectations of what my work should be. And so I wanted to use this very classic dance and classic music to sort of try and put cold water on people's assumptions," she said.
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The last piece is a work in progress that draws from the life of Miriam Makeba, an iconic South African singer and civil rights activist known to many as "Mama Afrika," as well as from Chipaumire's own experiences as a Zimbabwean expatriate and an artist. Among other themes, Miriam explores the burdens of fame and being cast as representative of an entire culture -- and even an entire continent.
"It's an effort to marry the Virgin Mary with Miriam Makeba," said Chipaumire. "Two formidable icons, and what heft it takes to be an icon. Miriam Makeba was exiled for 30 years ... by these criminal regimes. And I chose to use the Virgin Mary because there's no more powerful female icon. So there's this idea of sort of crossing cultures and timelessness, and these women being put in positions where they have so much responsibility. And yet they gracefully take them on."