Nora Chipaumire: Zimbabwean native, Bessie Award winner, and 2011 USA Ford Fellow. Photo by Antoine Tempe.
Although I’d heard about choreographer/dancer and 2011 USA Ford Fellow Nora Chipaumire for several years, it wasn’t until the summer of 2006 that I saw her perform for myself. It was at Bytom, Poland’s XIII Annual International Contemporary Dance Conference and Performance Festival. Nora’s master classes in modern and African dance created a buzz among both the students and her fellow teachers, and the solos I saw her perform were transfixing. Both works—Convoys, Curfews, and Roadblocks and Dark Swan—demonstrated not just her physical prowess, but also an intriguing intellect. These will be presented as part of her evenings of performance at the Skirball this weekend.
Nora will also give a sneak preview of a substantial excerpt-in-progress from her latest solo work, Miriam, which employs the music of Miriam Makeba (1932–2008). Widely known by her nickname, “Mama Afrika,” Makeba was an exiled South African musician who brought the realities of apartheid into the living rooms of music fans around the world. While Miriam examines the burden of representing a culture to a larger society, it’s not meant to be a biography of Makeba. Instead, it draws inspiration from Makeba’s life story, as well as from Chipaumire’s own experiences as a self-exiled Zimbabwean.
Click on the image above to see a snippet of Nora performing Convoys, Curfews, and Roadblocks. At the Skirball, she’ll perform inside our spacious Milken Gallery.
Vent D’Ouest’s two guitarists drive the band’s rhythms and impressed the audience at the International Jewish Music Festival last year. Here’s a quick snap of them plucking away on one guitar simultaneously!
The International Jewish Music Festival (or, as the Dutch call it, the Joods Muziek Festival) takes place across Holland every October. This past year, I was fortunate to attend, and I caught a stand-out performance in the city of Utrecht, at the Merkaz Cultural Center, by the French klezmer ensemble Vent D’Ouest. Merkaz was an interesting destination in itself: it was a Jewish orphanage before World War II. Representing the liberal Jewish community of Utrecht, the Merkaz Foundation was lucky to snag one of the few local buildings that had any Jewish history.
A quartet of French talents, Vent D’Ouest has an unusual make-up for a klezmer group. The band features clarinet and accordion, as expected, but then there’s the unlikely addition of two guitars. Together the four members, all natural showmen, performed a lively set, clever in how they urged the audience to snap and clap along.
In the end, it is their playing that really counts, and the band’s musicianship is solid. What Vent D’Ouest offers is far from the standard wedding schtick, managing to bring in a strong jazz vibe from the clarinet and weaving snippets of popular tunes, like the Mission: Impossible theme, into more standard melodies. I doubt anyone else is playing a mix of “Hava Nagila” and “Bamboleo” (which, given klezmer’s links to the Balkans, is not so far-fetched as it might sound at first). Continue reading