“Las Fridas: A Movement Installation and Offering” is choreographed/authored, designed, and directed by Mark DeGarmo. In keeping with the plurality of its title and the possibility that Kahlo’s wisdom as a “secular saint” is potentially accessible to anyone, it is performed by multiple performers of different genders, cultural backgrounds, and ages. Currently, Marie Baker-Lee, Mark DeGarmo, Susan Thomasson, and Luis Gabriel Zaragoza have performed the 60-minute “Dark Frida” and “Light Frida” roles.
This transcultural transdisciplinary work is a love letter to Mexico and an offering to Frida Kahlo. “Las Fridas” reclaims Kahlo for who she was and not for who she has become in her story’s retelling, commercialization, and sanitizing. The Blue House set is commissioned at each performance site in collaboration with local artists and community members. The work calls on each community who engages with it to examine their own history, heritage and assumptions about Kahlo, gender, and aging.
The performance is composed of 16 sections in two equal 30-minute divisions of eight, creating a Mesoamerican mandala structure of four fours. Duality of sun and moon, mother and child, sacred and secular, ancient and current appear throughout Kahlo’s indigenous and mestizo, naïve and experienced imagery. In keeping with Kahlo’s symbolism, the sections are paired across the work’s two parts, structured as internal and external dyads.
While originally conceived over 30 years ago, DeGarmo completed “Las Fridas” over six years culminating in New York previews in December 2015 and April 2016. Its two parts further reflect the dualities of Kahlo’s experience: “Part 1: Innocence: The Blue House” and “Part 2: Experience: A Ribbon around a Bomb.”
In offering this work for public viewing, 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. Video projections of Maxine Greene’s hands at 93 and Judith Malina’s feet at 88 are incorporated into the multimedia presentation. “Las Fridas” is a study of energies, strengths, weights, qualities and their essences.
Classical new music composer Judith Sainte Croix described this work as an “emotional tone poem.” Postmodern dancer/choreographer Douglas Dunn said, “This is not your grandmother’s Modern Dance.”
Writer Melanie Brown said in her interpretation:
“…the piece brings to center stage something that is frequently the elephant in the room when it comes to dance: aging. Neither DeGarmo nor Baker-Lee are young dancers; their performance brings the focus of this work to the aging body, as well as to the aging of relationships with other people and the self. In imagining Kahlo’s continuing relationship with herself into old age, DeGarmo succeeds in reflecting the human condition when it comes to aging. As an homage to Kahlo and the culture she always used as a backdrop for her art, the work achieves its goals beautifully, but “Las Fridas” could easily stand alone as a study in the progression of time, and the inevitable dissonance that occurs when what you see in the mirror is no longer the way you feel inside.”
We showed the 60-minute version of “Las Fridas” for two women and one projection (Maxine Greene’s hands) at our Salon Performance Series at MDD’s Clemente Studio 310 in August 2014. We produced NYC preview performances December 16-20, 2015 in MDD’s Clemente Studio 517 with new sound design and projections. We co-produced with The Clemente the next round of NYC previews with new elements (two casts: female-male and male-male, lighting design, and a theater setting) at the Flamboyán Theater April 20th-24th, 2016.
Contact us for more information about booking and tours of “Las Fridas”: firstname.lastname@example.org