Yetu and Irma Omerzo
Wednesday at Jacob’s Pillow, Harlem-based dance group Batoto
Yetu will perform the world premiere of Ngola Dzinga,
a tale of a young African princess who leads her father’s
kingdom to freedom in the 16th century. The dance assemblage
(who’s name is Swahili for “our children”) is made up of
young dancers ages 6 to 18. Director Júlio Leitão began
his troupe by giving free dance lessons in a park in New
York, which drew kids in. Leitão claims that the goal of
Batoto Yetu is not to produce dancers, but to help children
be healthy and self-sufficient. Children who are involved
with the company also receive tutoring, counseling, and
speech-diction and African-American-history lessons. As
a dance company, Batoto Yetu depicts the spirit of African
culture and folklore, performing in colorful costumes complete
with grass skirts and body paint.
Irma Omerzo, a choreographer hailing from Croatia, will
make her U.S. premiere in the Doris Duke Studio Theatre
next Thursday (Aug. 7) with Mi-Nous, a story of love
interrupted by distance and other inevitable obstacles,
told in an emotionally charged duet to electronic background
Batoto Yetu will perform (with live drummers) at the Ted
Shawn Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (Becket,
Mass.) Wednesday (Aug. 6) through Aug. 10. Shows Wednesday
through Saturday are at 8 PM with an additional show on
Saturday at 2 PM; the Sunday performance is also at 2 PM.
Youth tickets are $10; all other tickets $35-$40. Irma Omerza’s
U.S. debut will be in the Doris Duke Studio Theatre Aug.
7-10, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8:15
PM and Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $20. For
more information, call Jacob’s Pillow at (413) 243-0745.
Circus Girls in India
the term “starkiss” seems creepy, your instinct is correct.
It’s a circus act in which girls are lifted high in the
air and spun around and around, suspended by their teeth.
It’s one of the feature acts of the Great Rayman Circus,
which has been performing across India since the 1920s.
The documentary film Starkiss: Circus Girls in India
tells the story of the young performers (age 4 to 24) who
perform this and many other acrobatic feats while living
a life of almost complete isolation.
The girls—many illegally imported from Nepal—are contracted
out (i.e., sold) to the circus by their economically distressed
(i.e., poor) parents. For their own “protection,” they are
kept separate from everyone else. They see only their circus
trainers, receive no formal education and send their slight
wages home to their folks. (They are allowed to watch
TV.) Interviews with the girls reveal a complex range of
feelings: homesickness and loneliness, yes, but also pride
in their skills and devotion to their friends.
The oldest and most articulate young woman in the film is
17-year-old Anita Das (pictured). More than any other girl
interviewed, she not only loves circus life, but extols
it as an oasis from the dangers of the outside world. In
one of the film’s dramatic twists, we see her faith in the
circus shaken, and the true nature of her predicament revealed.
The film doesn’t judge the girls’ lives through the prism
of Western moralism; Dutch directors Chris Relleke and Jascha
de Wilde specifically eschew any formal narration, letting
the characters speak for themselves. The believability of
the various denizens of the circus, from the seemingly kind
owner and his hard-edged son through the various performers
who give their slant on the lives of the “circus girls,”
is left to the audience. The fascinating result is, in turn,
sometimes charming and more often disturbing.
Circus Girls in India will be screened this weekend
at Time & Space Limited (434 Columbia St., Hudson).
There are shows tonight (Thursday, July 31) through Saturday
(Aug. 2) at 7 PM; also, there are matinees on Saturday at
5 PM and Sunday (Aug. 3) at 4 PM. Tickets are $7.50 and
$5. For more information, call 822-8448.
that time of the year again: Those “fabulous Philadelphians,”
under artistic director and principal conductor (for the
Saratoga season) Charles Dutoit, are returning for their
annual three-week stint at the Saratoga Performing Arts
The tradition of thoughtful yet crowd-pleasing programming
continues; the cream of the traditional repertory is ably
sampled. Another continuing tradition is the stellar array
of guest soloists, which this summer includes Martha Argerich,
Boris Berezovsky, André Watts, Yefim Bronfman and Joshua
Bell. Broadway and film composer Marvin Hamlisch will conduct
the popular pops concert during week three.
The first week features performances of Johannes Brahms’
complete concertos—both piano concertos, the violin concerto
and the double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra.
Opening night (Wednesday, Aug. 6) features pianist Emanuel
Ax, who will be soloist on Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.
1. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s Symphony
No. 5 and the overture to Ludwig von’s Coriolan.
Later in the week, Bronfman will be featured on the second
Brahms piano concerto; Elmar Oliveira will solo on Brahms’
violin concerto; and the other orchestral works will include
pieces by Ravel, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky.
Evening performances at SPAC by the Philadelphia Orchestra
begin at 8:15 PM. Amphitheater tickets range from $56.75
to $19; lawn tickets are $15. For reservations and information,