August 17 began Week One of the NOW Festival 2023. It is taking place at the large black box Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre, REDCAT, known for its presentation of unique and experimental work. Performances for each week run Thursday through Saturday.
The opening piece, A God of her own Making, is a perfect intro, just bursting with colorful imaginings. This anticipated work is a gift of free expression vocally, visually and spiritually that is fully created and developed by the exceptional Shamanic brilliance of JOJO ABOT, an Ewe woman from West Africa. Her ever present artistry surprises and delights. She manages to then bridge and lull the watchers into a meditation that heals.
Abot cleverly calls upon this universe using both new and ancient technologies to remember and create her vibrant stories. This eve, the piece is told with a vocal story-telling scat and carries one away to another universe with its combined movement on screen and stage. The coupling of video environs with exotic fashions and beaded headdresses, painted faces of blue, red, mauve is the foreground of both the community and Savannas of Africa shown prominently in the background. Facial expressions call out to follow Abot’s stealthy creativity, both guiding and following a universal patter that loses no time in this adventure and asks that one just hold on and allow it to happen.
Abot’s hyphenated jobs of Director, Choreographer, composer, Spatial Sound design and visuals…are accomplished with great energy and sureness. The messages of this unique creation insists on guiding the exploration and challenge of her universal talent. Her interest in combining voices, dance, and visuals lulls the audience into a euphoric wonderment. The range of vocal tones pre-recorded by Abot, along with the brilliant Esperanza Spalding, and Estere are ever guiding the audience toward a higher power. This is a fascinating work that supports exploration in the ranges of imagination, vocal and sound reproduction, movement and design. It is worth allowing Abot to be the guide on this fanciful trip.
The next piece, 2300 SHE is an inventive and courageous Transgressive art work that breaks norms, rebels, reveals shocking truths of outrageous dimension, and violates basic sensibilities. Each step of the way with its challenges of female social dilemmas it sifts through concerns of pregnancy, career, eggs… or not. We soon find ourselves nodding in agreement with each stalemate so freely presented in this deeply feminist piece.The flamboyant, highly adroit and thought-provoking Ironstone (he, she, they), thrills the audience from their first entrance. Certainly fearless, Ironstone exposes the mind and body-bending work with the utmost playful challenges throughout. They defies with powerful examination, story and creative movement based clearly on their extensive background in dance and theatre.
The poetic Jordi’s (she/her) clear and courageous expression, welcomed readily at the Getty Center and Banff Centre for Arts, injects a healing element brought to the piece based on what she describes as this “Black Gender-tired Queer person.” Jordi seasons the piece with her music and poetry of motion and emotion. She, creatively trapped in a womb of survival, explores living in a bubble as she projects from the center of the life form.
Cade (he/they) its co-director and performer with Ironstone, and the writer of 2300 SHE. He is a transmasculine, multilingual artist from Curitiba, Brazil who has worked across film, poetry, installations, and performance receiving a BFA from Otis College of Art & Design. The structure of the piece is a powerful statement that needs to be seen again to appreciate the thoughtful nuances that are important statements for today’s emerging environment.
The last piece by Tuixén Benet: called Some More was not a finished piece and was in fact presented as a work in progress. The notes of the story were to “explore the process of mortality, while being concerned with the concept of eternity.” The narrative sounded fascinating, however the choppiness and incompleteness of the piece made it appear pedantic, mostly mechanical and in the head. Without the program notes this would be unrecognizable and a curiosity.
In comparison, because of the thoughtfulness of the prior pieces, this was clearly not ready for prime time. It was in process and therefore did not attain its stated goal and message.
This event is important exposure to see pieces one may never, or fleetingly be seen, therefore, make sure not to miss New Original Works Festival 2023: Week Two, August 24-26 of fascinating and creatively exciting presentations at REDCAT. It is a terrific way to discover our future artists and their shared work and wisdom.
For more information about the NOW Festival and to purchase tickets, please visit their website.
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: A GOD OF HER OWN MAKING by Jojo Abot – Photo by Angel Origgi