Mark DeGarmo Dance Presents “Las Fridas: A Movement Installation and Offering”
Trigger Warning: This work contains scenes portraying death, violence, and episodic loud sounds
Las Fridas is a 60-minute duet developed over 13 years inspired by the life and work of Mexican painter and revolutionary, Frida Kahlo. This season the audience has the opportunity to experience the surreal full evening work in an intimate setting with limited seating: Mark DeGarmo Dance Studio Theater 310. This space is where Mark DeGarmo and MDD have been artist- and company-in-residence since 2001 on New York’s Lower East Side at the Clemente Center. It is also where DeGarmo created the work and intended for the public to experience it, in his words, “up close and intimate to feel part of the heartbeat of Las Fridas.” The timing coincides with DeGarmo’s November 2, All Souls Day of the Dead birthday.
Audience members of past seasons remarked the work is not only “genius” and “brilliant in composition and execution” but “in a way, frightening… the way great art always should be.” The piece is “not scared to push the audience right up to the edge that the performers are living on” and “wonderfully in your face, both literally and metaphorically.” “This is not your grandmother’s Modern Dance.”
Artistic associates for over 30 years, dancer/performer Marie Baker-Lee and director/choreographer Mark DeGarmo will perform the dual Dark Frida and Light Frida roles. DeGarmo recalls that “due to the sudden illness of one of the women over age 60 performing one week before the December 2015 New York City previews, I assumed the role, adding gender fluidity, and exploding my previous assumptions… In Fridas’ work there are often two figures, sometimes two Fridas. What if all the different sides of herself, including the masculine and feminine, were made visible?”
The work explores a transcultural transdisciplinary art, theater and performance space, while the sum of its two parts suggests a strange new surrealistic view of Frida’s life and traumas. It is inspired by the duality of sun and moon, mother and child, sacred and secular, ancient and current as they appear in Kahlo’s artwork. Las Fridas challenges its audiences to examine their own history, heritage and assumptions about Kahlo, gender, power relations and aging. The implicit question the work proposes is: “What might Frida Kahlo’s life have been like had she lived beyond the age of 47?”
In making an offering of this work on Mexico’s Days of the Dead to the world of the living and the dead, Mark DeGarmo pays homage to his mothers, grandmothers, mentors and friends, including renowned choreographers and dance educators Anna Sokolow and Hanya Holm, educational theorist Maxine Greene, and Living Theatre Co-Founder Judith Malina. Maxine Greene’s hands and Judith Malina’s feet are ex voto images embedded in the windows of the Blue House backstop for this miniature portrait played as an eternal struggle of the forces of duality, nature, violence, love, hatred, fear, and anguish.