Nora Chipaumire: Miriam

Event has passed (Thu Feb 13, 2014 - Sat Feb 15, 2014)
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
Arts, Theater
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“Chipaumire has become a rock star of downtown dance, with a majestic quality that blows everything else out of the water.” —Dance Magazine

“… challenging, dark, brave and exquisite.” —The Performance Club

Renowned choreographer and dancer Nora Chipaumire, a former member of the acclaimed dance troupe Urban Bush Women, creates her first character-driven work, Miriam. The work is a deeply personal and immersive dance-theater installation that reverberates with tensions between public expectations and private desires, between objectification and power, and between darkness and light. The unusual format and staging of the piece invite the audience to bring their senses, memories, hearts, and minds to bear to fully inhabit and comprehend the experience of being an outsider.

In performance, the persona embodied by Chipaumire emerges from a pile of rocks onstage to convey a woman’s struggles with the burden of objectification and the weight of resistance in a world defined largely by others. Her efforts are abetted by an otherworldly character, both angel and devil, performed by Okwui Okpokwasili. In their interplay, Miriam renders the intensity of women who fight to create themselves despite the dual legacies of strict cultural traditions and imperialist racial views that define female beauty and power.

The inspiration for Miriam springs from the cultural and political milieu of Chipaumire’s southern African girlhood, her self-exile to the U.S., and her self-discovery as an artist. Additional literary and legendary influences—the writings of Joseph Conrad and Zimbabwean novelist Chenjerai Hove; the life of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba; and the Christian iconography of Mary—blend to create layers of text, sound, and image that enrich the mysterious and haunting world of Chipaumire’s creation.

Miriam is conceived, written, and choreographed by Nora Chipaumire, and directed by Eric Ting with an original soundscore by composer and pianist Omar Sosa; lighting and visual environment by Olivier Clausse; costume design by Naoko Nagata; and sound design by Lucas Indelicato. Actor/dancer Okwui Okpokwasili joins in the performance.

Presented in association with The Black Choreographers Festival.


  1. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
    701 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA