Wednesday, August 6, 2003
Terry Lynn LeCompte has been doing this for years. She gets a group of kids on stage and creates a piece of "physical theater" that is somewhere between dancing and acting. The students create the show with their bodies. They are the trees and the rocks. They are the weather and props and they are the characters in the story.
"It's extremely physical," LeCompte said.
During the winter, LeCompte teaches physical theater in New Jersey and New York through a group called the Shoestring Players. Over the years, she discovered that the best medium for this kind of theater is African folk tales.
For Perry-Mansfield's Youth Festival II, she created a performance called "Tamba" using three African folktales and two African songs as the foundation.
LeCompte collaborated with 30 students ages 10 to 14 to create a script for the production.
Tonight, they will re-enact the stories of "Anansi and The Strange Moss-Covered Rock" from the Ashanti people, "NanaMariam" from Niger and "The Voice" by the Maasai people of Kenya.
"NanaMariam" is the story of a mythical creature that terrorized the tribes that lived along the Niger River.
"He destroys the tribe's life," she said. "First, the chief tries to kill it, but fails. Then the chief's (teenage) daughter tries and succeeds."
The theater portion of the evening gives way to a dance concert choreographed by Perry-Mansfield instructors Christina Paolucci, Julie Ludwick and Rich Bittner.
Paolucci's piece is titled "Prairie Dance." The Western-themed dance is performed to the music of "The Magnificent Seven" by Elmer Bernstein.
"The music came first," Paolucci said. "The Magnificent Seven" was music written for an old Western movie adaptation of the Japanese film "The Seven Samurai."
But Paolucci's choreography is traditional ballet.
"They are wearing prairie dresses," she said, "but they are also wearing pink tights and ballet shoes."
"Prairie Dance" is followed by a modern piece called "Line of Vision."
"It's an abstract piece," choreographer Julie Ludwick said. Instead of having a storyline, it follows pattern and the concept of "the line of vision."
The dancers keep straight bodies, she said. "It's about geometry and sculpture."
Ludwick choreographed the movements and then her husband, Ken Pierson, wrote the music for the piece.
"He has that ability to create something quickly," she said.