Previews at APAP (January 2011) and Tisch Summer Residency (June 2011)
“Black Barbra” deconstructs the story of The Way We Were, the 1973 movie about lost love, as told by Donna Summer. The piece is a mix of storytelling, cultural, and historical exploration and imagination based on our own realities and experiences. Musically, the work immerses itself in the tradition of the Salsoul movement and its dissection of African and Latin influences and interpolations at the core of the genre—the sound eventually labeled Disco.
From the turntables, a DJ / MC poses questions about existence, mortality, and spirituality. As the performers engage through dance, song, and spoken word, the audience is encouraged to watch but also to participate in their own performance and movement happenings facilitated by the DJ. God is the DJ. Love is the dance floor. Music is the salvation!
The creation of Black Barbra has been supported with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.
THE WHIZ (2010)
Ease on down the road to recession and back from the brink of fantasy in Nicholas Leichter and Monstah Black’s take on “The Wiz/ard of Oz” for the Obama generation. Featuring choreography by Leichter, and an adapted score by Black with added musical selections, THE WHIZ is a full-spectrum original show of song, dance, and theatrical extravaganza. The work showcases an array of different dance, performance, and music styles—house, funk, postmodern, drag, hip-hop, contemporary, and psychedelic—which traverse a landscape of hopes, fears, dreams, and home.
“Remixing some of the musical’s tracks, adding some Missy Elliot, and just grooving on Quincy Jones arrangements, Leichter and his crew show their love for the material with club flash and smoke and a level of sexiness that somehow didn’t make it into the movie.” – The New Yorker
THE WHIZ was commissioned by DanceNOW [NYC] in partnership with Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, and Abrons Arts Center • Henry Street Settlement, with additional commissioning support from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and supported through creative residencies at Dickinson College, Muhlenberg College, Hollins University, and Topaz Arts. The score for THE WHIZ was commissioned by the American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program.
THE WHIZ was funded by New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) through the National Dance Project (NDP) with generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the MetLife Community Connections Fund of the MetLife Foundation. Funds to underwrite the general operating support associated with this project were generously provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Additional funding for THE WHIZ was provided by NYSCA and the NEA, public agencies.
8 dancers or more / 35 minutes
This homage to global dance music had its world premiere at The Joyce Theater.
“Killing it, working it, bringing attitude and invention to bear on every beat is the piece’s aim and its pleasure-giving achievement. African movements, samba hips, the stylings of various Jacksons, and the funky chicken all find a place. Starting out in geeky corporate garb, the dancers progressively attain glamour under the influence of the unclassifiable guest artist Monstah Black, who performs his own songs perched on platform heels.” – The New Yorker
Killa was commissioned, in part, by the Maggie Allesee Department of Dance at Wayne State. Creative residency provided by Sacramento State with funding from the National Performance Network Communities of Color. Additional support provided by Evolve Dance Inc., Connecticut College, 651 Arts, Abrons Arts Center, and the National Endowment for the Arts.