Nora Chipaumire is in Philadelphia running up steps in a Rocky-esque way to get to rehearsal. She has taken time out of her active tour and rehearsal schedule to elaborate upon about her upcoming performance, "Portrait of Myself as My Father," a powerful study to be presented on Oct. 14 and 15 by Miami Dade College’s (MDC) MDC Live Arts and Miami Light Project.
Known as the “rock star of downtown dance” (Dance Magazine) Chipaumire is a former principal artist with dance troupe, The Urban Bush Women. “I have always been a solo artist and creator. My time with the Urban Bush Woman was a means of growth and became an extension of my studies of the female black artist. I was so in awe of the work we did. It helped me grow to who I became and provoked me to speak.”
Chipaumire has a lot to say. "Portrait of Myself as My Father" speaks of her personal journey of evolution and discovery about the father she never knew, the role of the African male; a man exploring Rhodesia and its colonization — experiencing a life tethered to colonial heritage.
The Brooklyn-based, three-time Bessie Award winning Chipaumire explains, “African countries were experiencing monumental political change and independence. What did it mean to be black and African — and male? I wanted to investigate the severe realities of what independence really means; how we negotiate our life and struggle with conflict.”
The Bessie Award, established in 1983 in honor of Bessie Schonberg, is awarded annually in NYC for exceptional work in choreography and related arts.
Chipaumire's initial announcement stated that the work would be presented in a boxing ring — Matt Baiamonte’s Boxing Club in Wynwood to be exact. Baiamonte was the protégé of Muhammad Ali’s legendary trainer, Angelo Dundee.
“The boxing ring setting is a metaphor for intimate and dangerous stories; the hidden and risky. It represents the struggle that we are constantly in.”
However, the performance has been moved to Miami Light Project, 404 N.W. 26th St., Miami, due to conflicts with using the ring.
In the piece, the audience, as spectators, will be both judge and jury. “I want the audience to think of their own fathers, their own family relationships. The institution that we call family is sacred, but that’s what families do, we duke it out! I want the dialogue to be opened, to truly think about the value of life.”
Chipaumire and Senegalese dancer Pape Ibrahima Ndiaye (known as Kaolak) will dance, struggle, and “duke it out” in the boxing ring under the watchful eye of Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-based dancer Shamar Watt.
“This journey has allowed me to forgive. I’ve been able to let go and to appreciate my parents as individuals. We all make choices. Sometimes they are brilliant and sometimes, not so brilliant. This work represents that struggle we all have.”
Performances are Friday, Oct, 14 and Saturday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. at Miami Light Project, 404 N.W. 26th St., Miami, FL. Tickets are $30 plus fees; $10 for MDC students.
For tickets and to learn more about the 2016-17 MDC Live Arts Season, please call 305-237-3010, or visit mdclivearts.org; To purchase tickets and learn more about the 2016-17 Miami Light Project Season, call 305-576-4350 or visit miamilightproject.com