Mayumana at The New Victory

Choreographer Yanira Castro was recently asking me where she might take her son as he ages into a potential viewer of live performance.  The New Victory Theater came up immediately as a venue that consistently brings quality work to town from elsewhere; many of the programs are international groups (though Mabou Mines will be there in May).  These are sophisticated presentations for families; the New Vic’s programming doesn’t pander and their movement-based works are often a blend of the increasingly global vocabularies of cirque, hip hop, contemporary dance, and traditional and popular music.

This month’s “holiday” show, Momentum, from the Israel-based troupe Mayumana, is no exception to the New Vic’s standard of accessibility and craft.  The numbers are high-energy; the cast I saw included artists from the Ivory Coast, Tel Aviv, Curacao, Spain, Belgium, and Australia; and the attention spans of my guest critics (aged 5 and 7) were well maintained for close to 90-minutes.   Mayumana, maintains, at least, three companies and a home theater in Tel Aviv with a full creative team including 100 members from over 32 countries.  Mayumana founders Eylon Nuphar and Boaz Berman, together with producer Roy Ofer and artistic consultants Giuliano Peparini, David Ottone and Ido Kagan develop Momentum around the concept of time.

The show opens with two large hourglasses tipping over and a series of clocks begin ticking.  Cast members gather on stage and a vibrant number with everyone playing Peruvian Cajons (box drum), while executing tightly rehearsed gestural choreography, ensues.   A sequence during which the performers increase the speed of the drumming and gestures to a frenzied pace was invigorating and instilled a kind of pure delight that was equally shared by both kids and their jaded mother.   The show skips along a pretty, playful path with Kikeh Jacinto often playing a love struck fool enamored with a woman in the audience and Spike Levy serving as his foil, VJ/MC, and human beatbox.   A number with water drums, clear containers filled with water and empty glasses and one with, what look and sound like, enormous African thumb pianos are both elegant and magical.  There is a solo sequence for Ruth Aharoni who begins alone playing guitar and vocalizing a melody. Levy captures a live feed of this and it reappears projected on the lower, left corner of a scrim behind Aharoni.  The sound and image continue as a loop and Aharoni steps behind the scrim to reappear in the most stage right box of an 12-boxed structure.  She dances out a sequence of stomps and kicks to sensor pads on the walls, floor and an overhead pipe, laying down another audio and video track.  She leaves this box, but her projected image remains on the scrim, and lays another video/audio track in the next box. She then returns to the front of the stage to lay a bass track, with that image appearing in the upper right corner and dances across the front of the stage for a final video image that cuts across all the others.  She returns to the downstage mic and sings in front of the video collage and along with all of her previously laid tracks.  It’s a wonderful and charming example of live process integrated with performance product.

The program offers several opportunities for certain audience members to interact and participate in the performance, keeping the audience alert.  There are many numbers with grinding guitar and smashing rock drums that made me question whether it is a show that parents would bring younger kids too, though most of us are used to the decibel levels of construction and express subway tracks.  There are a couple jokes that are pitched to a more sexually active crowd and the straight up dance sequences, while showcasing the various skills of the well-rounded and physically powerful artists, aren’t choreographically astounding and seem to rely heavily of impressive leg extensions from the women.  It’s not the grunge of Stomp, nor the visceral experience of De La Guarda, but Momentum offers a rich, live, family event that would easily serve the Kindergarten set and a much older (think home for the holidays) sibling.  The show runs til January 2.

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