the Line Festival at FIAF’s Le Skyroom, 22 East 60th Street (between Park and Madison Avenue).
Without a doubt, Nora is one of the most daring and note-worthy performers in dance today. For this new work, Nora joins the long list of dance-makers as they celebrate the centenary of composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky’s revolutionary work, The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) which premiered in Paris by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes on May 29, 1913, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. Remembered as causing an incredulous riot among the affluent in Russia because it dared to present paganism, revolt, rivalry, sacrifice and abject passion at a time when ballet was not seen as such, Sacre as it was affectionately
called, was the cause for uproar in the dance world. Reportedly influenced by the myth about the power of the Russian pagan spring, Stravinsky set out to tell the tale in three parts: The Awakening of Nature to the thawing of earth, the Adoration of the Earth (with fertility rites that bring forth spring), and the eventual climax wherein a maiden dances (sacrifices) herself to death as she propitiates to the God of spring. Today, Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring is revered as a legendary ballet of the 20th century; a riot that is forever remembered. Nora will perform part one of her solo rite riot created in collaboration with Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole, a Crossing the Line 2011 artist, and Kenyan-born visual artist Wangechi Mutu.
Nora shared some thoughts on this new work:
Charmaine: That is a fabulous photo of you by Antoine Tempe! Does it say anything about Nora, or the work? Or is it just a fabulous photo of you?
Nora: The photo says everything about Nora, the work, and equally says as much about Antoine and about the
chemistry between the camera /object - photographer /sitter relationship. It also says what the attitude of the choreographer is to herself, and to whoever should gaze back at her. The old adage, “A picture says a thousand words,” [in this case] is true. We [Antoine and I] call [the photo] “Grace” after the fabulous [singer,
model and actress] Grace Jones. But it might as well be [Pablo Picasso’s] “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon!”
Anyway, it makes you ask, “Who has the power”? “Who is beholding whom”?
I love the “so-what-ness" of it. You know I am a disciple of Miles Davis!
Charmaine: With the world already celebrating the centenary of The Rite of Spring, what made you want to
make a version?
Nora: [The Rite of Spring is a] …ritual of spring, as it is celebrated, conjured, invented, described, manufactured by Stravinsky and Nijinsky. This innovative opportunity is something every creative mind is gunning for; the real deal, a falsehood that is true. I wanted to participate (un/commissioned), in this
celebration. I want to shout my praise to these daring Russians. I wondered if I could dare to make a rite myself. So I am attempting a riot instead. I think I could manufacture a riot; “occupy my body" type thing. I
cannot invent a pagan past, [but] I want to invent a pagan present.
Nora: The ORIGINAL [by Stravinsky and Ninjinsky]… a totally made up rite that the west bought because they wanted to believe in a cannibalistic other! And Pina Bausch’s because she too invents her own false hood, not a concrete/urban German city/but a dirt rural no/name place.
Charmaine: Can you talk a bit about your way of “…questioning sacrifice” and what that has brought forth?
Nora: Giving the “chosen” one the voice instead of focusing on the “greater good of the society,” allows the
community to get information another way. To that end, focusing on the individual allows me to ask, “What is sacrifice?” “What is this (sacrifice) in a performer, and in performance?” The ritual of theater, or performance through the performer, is today’s equivalent of human sacrifice (cannibalism). The performer must know how to be consumed. [And here,] she must willingly offer herself for slaughter. I am committed to the slaughter and the consumption. I accept my chosen role, with the head slightly cocked! But, I want to name the price of my
Charmaine: You say “…the head slightly cocked” and I immediately think of your photo again. Any resemblance/connection there?
Nora: There is a refusal in this tipping of the head. There is a suggestion of a confrontation. I may equate this
to the “look” Black women famously give their kids in public. That look says: “Not now. Not here. Don't make
me...” There are cultural (Black /African) codes that I exploit frequently: sucking of teeth, for example!
Head cocking is another.
Charmaine: Are you “the chosen one”?
Nora: YES, I choose myself! This is also confronting my own void/vanity/complicity. I would not choose/ nominate anyone to do the soul searching for me.
Charmaine: Where did the title rite riot come from?
Nora: rite (ritual), crossed out because I [am] tired of the African body and its rituals! [And] riot - a form of civil
disorder characterized by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out
in sudden and intense rash of violence against...Grievance /dissent.... I love the energy of being alive, of being present, of being in the now, [and] of taking matters into one's hands...
Charmaine: You have a pretty impressive team of collaborators for rite riot. How did this team come about?
Nora: My team is virtually wonderful, a result of living in global NYC, of desiring a conversation with fellow African artists. This type of collaboration has yet to be seen between Africans!
Charmaine: Are you saying that you are working virtually? If so, what’s that been like?
Nora: Yes, in that this is my way of admitting how much their presence in my life matters. I am engaged in conversations (actively: Wangechi, less so Teju), that affirm, question, support and develop my own process and thinking. THIS is “virtual," and not the traditional way of being in the studio and making a work together (although I am looking forward to that chapter). FOR now I am content to know that Teju, Wangechi and I exist. WE are aware of each other’s work and understand the significance of the work.
Charmaine: Can you paint a picture of what your movement, Cole’s words and Mutu’s visuals all melded together have produced? Is it what you envisioned?
Nora: I can't because this team will be in RITE RIOT part 2 (2014)! Such a team needs time and
resources. Part one is without Wangechi’s eyes, and without Teju's hands, BUT the conversations I have had with them have in part led to this humble iteration. I believe part two will rival some of the best combination of visual designs, (think [Robert] Rauschenberg, [Merce] Cunningham) and [other] wordsmiths/dance collaborations in the history of contemporary art. I hope we have the resources to pull it off.
Charmaine: Any idea what part two will bring?
Nora: My Family...
Find out more: http://www.fiaf.org/crossingtheline/2013/2013-nora-chipaumire.shtml