Kayla Farrish “Put Away the Fire, dear pt.2” (in development) at La MaMa Moves

Jessica Alexander, Tatiana Barber, Kayla Farrish & Kerime Konur in the (in-development) presentation of “Put Away the Fire, dear pt. 2 at La MaMa Moves. Photo by Steven Pisano

Put Away the Fire, dear pt.2 was still in draft form when it was shown at La MaMa Moves last month. The always compelling Kayla Farrish’s newest evening-length work moves in and out of cinematic and live performance structures, often jump-cutting from internal narratives to vigorous dancing. Pulling from American cinema from the 1930s to 1960s and inspired by references from Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, and Sidney Portier, the 90 minute (with intermission) presentation was an abundant garden of ideas and small dishes that, once allowed to bloom or marinate in proximity (while under the focused gaze of a directorial zoom out), will surely produce a bountiful integration. 

A practiced filmmaker, Farrish is clearly still playing at the edges of compositional editing. What translates from film structure into an engaging live performance? In film, an overwhelmingly visual and auditory medium, much can be established within seconds. I’m often lauding the casting director, art directors, and cinematographer before an actor has said a single thing. Meanwhile, in a space like La MaMa’s Downstairs Theater, the satisfaction comes from the energetic interplay of exertion and re-direction of my attention. Because my framing generally included a view of the whole stage, I look forward to the way a sense of ensemble might serve in the world-building.

Choreographically, the shifts play like a jazz score, allowing dancers to pop, slide and shine. In particular, Tatiana Barber & Kerime Konur join Farrish in displaying, primarily in a slew of center-stage solos, their skillful ranges as dancers, inhabiting personas iconic and intimately familiar. Farrish asks “What’s the end of an archetype?” and seeks to amplify BIPOC figures who, like Lena Horne, might loom large as legends, but can’t override the insistent dehumanizing of many marginalized figures in media and society, especially the various assignments placed upon (and taken from) “A Black Woman.” Farrish is pulling apart and converging many autobiographical and historic legacies, carrying forward family and fame in a potent effort to write herself back onto and into the absences from stages and screens. There are many threads, however, and I look forward to when the array of presentations can bring us on something like the emotional journey of a film. While appreciating the marvel of each dancer’s commitment and skill, I’m eager to cross the threshold of ‘type’ and join in empathies both personal and kinesthetic.




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