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Choreographer Cynthia Oliver Unearths Black Masculinities with Virago-Man Dem, Jan 26 & 27

Painted Bride Art Center is pleased to present Cynthia Oliver’s Virago-Man Dem, January 26 & 27 at 8 pm. In this evening-length dance theater work, Oliver seeks to dismantle the term virago, which references characteristically male behaviors and female cultural transgressions. This stirring work navigates black masculinities, offering a complex choreography of non-linear movement, oral text and visual projections that culminate in an eclectic and provocative dance theatre piece.

A nuanced study in Caribbean and African American masculinities, Virago-Man Dem draws from Oliver’s extensive background in contemporary dance from Africanist and Euro-American cultural frameworks, as well as her deep involvement in avant-garde theatrical traditions of black women in North America. “I wanted to look at a series of experience that I did not understand from my own visceral viewpoint, but that had always been around me,” says Oliver, whose 25-year career has thus far been dedicated to revealing black female worlds. “If I’m looking at excavating women’s worlds, then I must also be recognizing the other side.”

The term virago, with its Latin prefix vir (“man”) and ago (“woman”), has since ancient times suggested that elusive flicker between genders. The work itself is based on the lives of the performers and draws from their experiences toward broader cultural trajectories. Performers include Duane Cyrus, Niall Noel Jones, Jonathan Gonzalez and Ni’Ja Whitson. Oliver’s design team includes longtime collaborator, composer Jason Finkelman, Black Kirby visual artist team Stacey Robinson and John Jennings, projection designer/animator John Boesche, costume designer Susan Becker, and lighting designer Amanda Ringger.

The work premiered in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Next Wave Festival in October 2017. Virago-Man Dem will premier in Philadelphia on Painted Bride’s stage. With radical tenderness and dizzying force, Virago-Man Dem celebrates black masculinities in their infinite variety and nuance, constructing a sweeping tableau of embracing, sashaying, speaking, screaming, soaring individuals.

Virago-Man Dem comes to Painted Bride Art Center January 26 & 27 at 8 pm. Tickets are on sale now—$20 General Admission. To purchase, log on to paintedbride.org or call the box office at 215-925-9914.

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