Performance Schedule: March 15, April 1, 2001
First Floor Theatre
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
Yara Arts Group, a resident company
of La MaMa, creates new World Music-Theater pieces by combining stunning singing,
breath-taking design and the oldest folk sources imaginable. Last summer, members
of Yara journeyed to the Buryat Aginsk region of Siberia to record shaman rituals.
"Obo: Our Shamanism" was born from this experience. The piece, directed
by Virlana Tkacz, features documentary footage of a shaman ritual from Buryatia,
meditations on what the artists experienced and traditional Buryat Mongolian music,
folk song and throat singing.
As of this writing, "Obo: Our Shamanism" is being created in rehearsals
by director Virlana Tkacz and Buryat artists Sayan Zhambalov and Erzhena Zhambalov,
Badmahanda Aiusheyeva, Mariana Sadovska and Battuvshin. The piece will be based
on music and rituals the artists observed and recorded last summer in Siberia.
Music will be by Erzhena Zhambalov with additional songs by Mariana Sadovska.
Set and lights will be by Watoku Ueno and video will be by Andrea Odezynska. The
show will feature the soaring vocals of Badmahanda Aiusheyeva and Mariana Sadovska,
as well as virtuoso instrumentals and throat singing by Battuvshin and Sayan Zhambalov.
"Obo: Our Shamanism" was preceded in December, 2000 by Yara's "Song
Tree," a work that was also born of the troupe's field research in Ukraine
last summer. In that production, spirits of ancient myths descended on a woman
who had buried herself in work and science. It contained music based on beautiful
polyphonic women's songs that Yara members recorded in the villages of Poltava.
Director Virlana Tkacz heads the Yara Arts Group and has created ten original
theater pieces with the company, all of which had their American premieres at
La MaMa. Videographer Andrea Odezynska is known for her film, "Dora Was Dysfunctional,"
which won awards at the Hamptons Film Festival and Rotterdam Film Festival and
was an Academy Awards Short Subject Finalist. The set and lights are by Watoku
Ueno, resident designer and founding member of Yara Arts Group. The piece is multilingual
but is easily accessible to English speaking audiences. Many of the traditional
songs are translated into English by Sayan Zhambalov, Virlana Tkacz and Wanda
Sayan and Erzhena Zhambalov have worked with Yara Arts Group since 1996. They
live in the Buryat Republic in Siberia and are considered the premiere artists
of their generation. They perform as the band "Uragsha" with Battuvshin
and Badmahanda Aiusheyeva. They have played traditional Buryat Music at the Museum
of Natural History and the Knitting Factory and Joe's Pub and performed to a sold-out
auditorium at the World Music Institute last spring.
Maryana Sadovska worked with Yara on the group's first project in Ukraine, titled
"In the Light." For the last ten years she has worked at the Gardzienice
Center for Theatre Practices in Poland as actor and musical director. She has
appeared in that theater's productions of "The Life of Protopope Awwakum,"
"Carmina Burana" and "Metamorphosis or The Golden Ass," which
she co-created using ancient Greek music. Last month she appeared in Gardzienice's
"Metamorphosis..." at La MaMa. In December, she appeared in Yara's "Song
Tree," which she helped to create at La MaMa.
Founded in 1990, Yara Arts Group creates original pieces that explore timely issues
rooted in the East through the diverse cultural perspectives of the group's members.
Yara artists are of Asian, African, Eastern and Western European ethnic origin.
They bring together poetry, song, historical materials and scientific texts, primarily
from the East, to form what one critic described as "extended meditation
on an idea." The company has created six pieces based on materials from Eastern
Europe including "A Light from the East," "Blind Sight," "Yara's
Forest Song," and "Waterfall/Reflections." The New York Times (D.J.R.
Bruckner) called "Waterfall/Reflections," developed with folk singer
Nina Matvienko, "a theatrical enchantment given cohesion by choreographed
movement and by music on a prodigal scale." Since 1996 Yara has created four
more theater pieces with Buryat artists from Siberia, notably "Circle"
(March 2000), an exhilarating World Music-Theater work. The Village Voice called
it "a stunningly beautiful work [that] rushes at your senses, makes your
heart pound, and shakes your feelings loose." Backstage (Irene Backalenick)
praised the intermingling of Buddhism and Shamanism, music and dance in this "haunting"
work, citing its rich singing and exciting staging and deeming the production
a "rich, exotic experience that holds us in its thrall." Rhythm Magazine
(Michal Shapiro) wrote, "The next time someone tells you that the Yara Arts
Group at La MaMa is putting on a show, go see it! It isn't often that one can
enjoy such a satisfying evening of theatre perfectly fused with music. This is
what good art is all about--exhilarating, uplifting and entertaining. And for
the world music lover, it is a feast of gorgeous singing, authentic costuming
and masterly instrumentals. "
"Obo: Our Shamanism" will be accompanied by a photo exhibit, "Portraits
of Siberian Shamans," featuring works by Siberian photographer Alexander
Khantaev, who accompanied Yara on trips to record the Shamans. The exhibit will
be open March 21 to April 1 at La MaMa's visual art space, La Galleria, 6 East
First Street. Hours are Thursdays through Sundays from 1:oo pm to 6:00 pm. There
is no admission charge. The artist's reception will 6:00-9:00 pm Wednesday March
"Obo: Our Shamanism" was made possible, in part, by Yara's numerous
individual contributors and with public funds from the New York City Department
of Cultural Affairs Cultural Challenge Program and the New York State Council
on the Arts.