Immersive Dance-Theater Piece MAZE to Premiere at The Shed
On Wednesday, July 24, Maze, an immersive dance-theater piece co-directed by choreographer Reggie 'Regg Roc' Gray (The D.R.E.A.M. Ring) and theater artist Kaneza Schaal (Go Forth, Jack &), will premiere at The Shed as a new commission. Performed by masters of flexn, a form of street dance created in Brooklyn, New York, with roots in Jamaican bruk up, this intimate and powerful 90-minute work explores the puzzles, poetry, and infinite challenges of human coexistence. Maze runs through August 17, with performances at 7:30 on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday; at 7:00 and 9:30 pm on Saturdays; and 2 pm on Sundays.
In Maze, staged for The Shed's Griffin Theater, audiences come face-to-face with dancers during parts of the performance in an invitation to engage with their work. Moving in an architectural landscape created solely with light, designed by Tobias G. Rylander (The 1975, FKA Twigs, The xx,) a troupe of 15 dancers will enact social issues that are central to their lives using a movement vocabulary they have worked on together-each one adding a signature style they have developed as established artists in the flexn community.
"Creating Maze has been a labyrinth of its own. From the beautiful architecture of lights and the harmonic sounds of live voices, we capture true emotion. We capture tradition with the sounds of taiko and djembe while keeping the integrity of flex dance music," says Reggie Gray. "These amazing flexn artists are the true meaning of finding one's self within the maze of our own bodies. These dancers paint stories of a bone-crushing society as they make way for hope of a better future."
"The physical experimentation and intellectual rigor of The D.R.E.A.M. Ring is joyful creative material. Each section of Maze is a vignette, a poem, a story, an invitation to consider the interconnected nature of our collective flight and freedom," says Kaneza Schaal. "As each of us on the project considered our personal experiences with the abuse of state power infiltrating our most intimate lives, we explored individual and collective mythologies that break open cycles of limited freedom."
In a conscious effort to invert how The D.R.E.A.M. Ring has traditionally worked, in which dancers often choose existing pieces of music, Mazedancers are the originators of content, followed closely and supported by live and improvised vocals and drumming: Rasaan-Elijah 'Talu' Green on djembe drums; Taiko Masala (Hiro Kurashima, Laiyona Nakahashi, and Ueno Russel) on taiko drums; and vocalists Kanita Miller Hicks and Justin Hicks. Epic B, a pioneer of flex dance music (FDM), will be on deck each night as DJ.The D.R.E.A.M. Ring cast includes: Deidre 'Dayntee' Braz (Rehearsal Director), Rafael 'Droid' Burgos, Glendon 'Tyme' Charles, Quamaine 'Virtuoso' Daniels, Sean 'Brixx' Douglas, James 'Banks Artiste' Davis, Shelby 'Shellz' Felton, Aaron 'Doc' Frazier, Calvin 'Cal' Hunt, Derick 'Spectacular Slick' Murreld, Andre 'Dre Don' Redman, Joshua 'Sage' Morales, Giovanie 'Geo Alexzander' McCullen, Risa 'Risa' Morales, Corey 'Corey Ringmaster' Batts. For weekend performances, the cast will be joined by students in The Shed's FlexNYC program, Ebony Sexius and Emmanuel Hernandez.
Completing the creative team are Andrew Lulling, Sound Designer; Eisa Davis, Literary Contributor; Corey 'Corey Ringmaster' Batts, Style Coordinator; and Hazel Hernandez, Assistant Director.
The new commission is Kaneza Schaal's first collaboration with Gray. A 2018 Ford Foundation Art For Justice Bearing Witness Fellow, among other honors, Schaal's projects have been presented in Rwanda, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi, in addition to New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and major cities nationwide.
Maze marks a new chapter in The Shed's association with Reggie Gray and his dance company, The D.R.E.A.M. Ring. Members of the company were featured last year in A Prelude to The Shed, the organization's first public program presented in 2018. Since 2016, The Shed has collaborated with Gray and flexn teaching artists on FlexNYC, a free, after-school residency program in dance activism for young people. Today, FlexNYC operates in all five boroughs through partnerships with public schools, New York City Housing Authority community centers, and Beacon youth programs.
"The Shed strives to create a productive and democratic space for artists and audiences, where they can engage creatively with the evolving issues of our time," says Alex Poots, The Shed's artistic director and CEO. "The virtuosity and artistry The D.R.E.A.M. Ring has created over the years have been a constant source of inspiration. We are thrilled to continue this deeply rewarding experience with this new commission from the company."
"The Shed set into action our commitment to emerging artists, socially engaged art, and youth programming that turns participants into co-creators with FlexNYC," says Tamara McCaw, The Shed's Chief Civic Program Officer. "The pre-opening program now supports the creative expression of six hundred students annually as they use dance to surface the urgent and complex societal issues they face every day. Taking inspiration from this, the artists in Maze explore cycles of state-sponsored violence and challenge the institutional structures that shape our lives. We're profoundly grateful to our amazing creative team, led by co-directors Regg Roc and Kaneza Schaal, for this collaborative work."
The lead supporter of Maze is Wells Fargo. Civic Programs at The Shed are generously supported by Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). The creation of new work at The Shed is generously supported by the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Commissioning Fund and The Shed Commissioners, a group of visionary philanthropists providing essential early support for The Shed's mission of commissioning original works of art, across all disciplines, for all audiences.
Glendon 'Tyme' Charles, Maze, 2019. Photo: Issac Anthony. Courtesy The Shed.