Choreographer Karole Armitage is back at the Abrons Arts Center to inspire and engage audiences with Think Africa!-a festive fusion of dance and live music from the West African tradition. The dynamic dancers of the Armitage Gone! Dance company will perform Ms. Armitage's popular ballet Itutu, a collaborative work with West African electronica band Burkina Electric featuring set and fabric design by Philip Taaffe. As part of Think Africa!, Ms. Armitage will engage in a salon-style dialogue with Dance Theater of Harlem's Virginia Johnson, composer and Burkina Electric band leader Lukas Ligeti, and singer/dancer Mai Lingani on the importance of the African aesthetic.
The word "itutu" translates to "cool" in Yoruba. "To me, 'cool' does mean grace under pressure," Ms. Armitage says. "It is an attitude of behavior in the world, of a kind of dignity and rigor in the face of whatever you come up against."
Itutu creates a world without borders and harks back to the tradition of the 'ensalada', a typical Spanish genre, which was very popular in the 16th century. The features of the ensalada are the combination of sacred and secular images, diverse rhythms and different languages. Ensaladas, though rooted in popular culture were performed mainly at important times during the religious calendar.
In this 21st Century ensalada, dancers and musicians mix vocabularies and sounds from multiple sources. The riveting African pop sounds of Burkina Electric are performed in several African languages as well as in French and English. The ancient Burkinabé rhythms of Burkina Faso are fused with western club electronica. Armitage's classical abstractions and traditional African dance translate the polyrhythmic music into a poly-visual form. The most mysterious sections are performed to the solos of Lukas Ligeti, unleashed on an electric marimba. Western artists have been in a dialogue with African aesthetics since the turn of the last Century. Itutu celebrates that continuum.
CHOREOGRAPHER Karole Armitage
MUSIC Lukas Ligeti, Pyrolator and Burkina Electric
ARMITAGE GONE! DANCE Leonides D. Arpon, Sara Beery, Kristina Bethel-Blunt, William Isaac, Sean
Hilton,Abbey Roesner, Bennyroyce Royon, Marlon Taylor-Wiles, Emily Wagner, Mei-Hua Wang,
BURKINA ELECTRIC Wende K. Blass, Maï Lingani, Vicky, Zoko Zoko
SET AND FABRIC DESIGN Philip Taaffe
COSTUME DESIGN Peter Speliopoulos
LIGHTING DESIGN Clifton Taylor
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR/LIGHTING SUPERVISOR Joe Doran
ARMITAGE GONE! DANCE
Since she knocked the dance world off balance as the ?punk ballerina?, choreographer Karole Armitage has received worldwide acclaim for her explosive, shocking, beautiful and visionary work. Armitage trained and performed in the Balanchine tradition but made an extraordinary leap to modern dance when invited by Merce Cunningham to join his company in 1976. With a unique and acute understanding of the aesthetic values of Balanchine and Cunningham, Armitage has created her own ?voice?in the dichotomy of classical and modern and is seen by some critics as the true choreographic heir the two masters of twentieth-century American dance.
Having worked extensively in Europe for fifteen years, Armitage returned to New York in 2005, dedicating herself to her company of eleven extraordinary dancers and collaborating with major artists from the contemporary art world and the avant-garde music scene. All are working with her to explore the boundaries of post-modern dance. The following principles guide her creative process:
Seek beauty. Show mutability. Move like a blaze of consciousness. Perfection is the devil. Express the eroticism of gravity.
In keeping with this mandate, Armitage Gone! Dance has built a remarkable repertory in a very short period. Two new full-length ballets were created last season. The first, Itutu received its premiere at BAM's NEXT Wave Festival and has also been performed outdoors at Celebrate Brooklyn!. Itutu, is ?"a sexy, richly layered hit" (NY Times). Created and performed in collaboration with Lukus Ligeti and Burkina Electric, the score mixes African pop, Western club electronica and the ancient rhythms of Burkinabé. Philip Taaffe created the designs for the exuberant backdrops and costume fabrics. The second work, Three Theories is inspired by physicist Brian Greene's best-selling book ?The Elegant Universe.?It premiered at the University of Illinois'Krannert Center and has been presented in New York under the auspices of the 2010 World Science Festival and this past summer at Jacob's Pillow.
Other works in the company's touring rep include Made in Naples which premiered in 2007 at the inaugural Napoli Teatro Festival Italia and was seen in New York at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2010; Ligeti Essays and Time is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood (which the NY Times called?one of the most beautiful dances to be seen in New York in a very long time?); and re-workings of her landmark classics The Watteau Duets and Drastic Classicism which will be excerpted this fall at the Abrons Art Center in NYC as part of the art center's education initiative.
The Company will present a two-week season this coming Spring at The Joyce Theater, April 30 thru May 6, 2011.
Karole Armitage (Artistic Director). For three decades as a choreographer and director, Karole Armitage has pushed the boundaries of classicism to create a contemporary idiom blending new dance, music and art. Armitage began her professional career in 1973, as a member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland, a company devoted exclusively to Balanchine repertoire. From 1976-1981 she was a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Armitage created her first piece Ne in 1978 followed by Drastic-Classicism in 1981. Throughout the 80s she led her own New York-based dance company. After a performance of her Watteau Duets at Dance Theater Workshop (1984), Mikhail Baryshnikov invited her to create a work for American Ballet Theatre. In 1987, at the request of Rudolph Nureyev she created her fourth dance for the Paris Opera Ballet. Its success led to many European commissions. For over a decade, Armitage maintained her company on a project basis while she worked with major European companies. She was appointed Director of MaggioDanza in Florence, Italy, where from 1995 to 1998 she supervised 45 dancers in the classical repertoire and created her own work. From 1999-2002 she was the resident choreographer of the Ballet de Lorraine in France, which toured her work throughout Europe. In 2004, she made a resounding return to New York when The Joyce Theater invited her to create a new ballet. Armitage Gone! Dance was launched in 2005. In the same year, she served as the Director of the Venice Biennale Festival of Contemporary Dance. In 2007, Armitage was awarded France's most prestigious arts award, Commandeur dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She has created dances for numerous companies including the White Oak Dance Project, the Deutsche Opera Berlin, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, Lyon Opera Ballet, the Washington Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the Rambert Dance Company. She has also directed operas from the baroque and contemporary repertoire for many of the prestigious houses of Europe including Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Lyric Opera in Athens and Het Muzik Theater in Amsterdam.