Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 12 July 2020

Loom Ensemble’s experimental stage show comes to Dubai

Prime, an interdisciplinary theatre piece by the New York- and Dubai-based Loom Ensemble, was put together by 10 artists from around the world. It will be staged at thejamjar every weekend until February 27.
Neva Cockrell and Raphael Sacks perform in Prime. Courtesy Loom Ensemble
Neva Cockrell and Raphael Sacks perform in Prime. Courtesy Loom Ensemble

In September, 10 artists from around the world retreated to an abandoned historic monastery in Abruzzo, in Central Italy, to brainstorm for a contemporary touring piece.

The team of theatre directors, performers choreographers, writers and composers – led by Neva Cockrell and Raphael Sacks, co-founders of the New York- and Dubai-based collective Loom Ensemble – shared everything from meals to personal experiences during their month of seclusion. This interaction developed into Prime, an interdisciplinary two-person production about a couple exploring their relationship.

The production, created in collaboration with The Art Monastery Project, incorporates recordings from the team’s time cooking together, and props include rocks from the monastery and figs gathered from the Italian countryside.

Prime was staged in Europe and the United States last year and the team will be in Dubai for a month, with performances at thejamjar every weekend starting today.

Crack of dawn

“We started with a blank page to work on the concept of ‘dawn’,” says Cockrell, a choreographer and dancer from the state of Colorado in the United States. “And we began looking at each of the collaborators’ experience with dawn – feelings like being hopeful, afraid or timid. We even researched all these myths associated with dawn time, the sun and passage of time. We then used all those ideas to create the piece.”

Sacks, who will perform with Cockrell, says an abstract idea like dawn became the context to tell a simple and relatable tale of daily life.

“The theme was a jumping-off point and through the collaborative process we arrived at a very simple, recognisable, contemporary story,” says Sacks. “We have two partners sharing their morning time before going out into the day. We see their long-term relationship unfold the way relationships change subtly and profoundly over the course of weeks, months and years.”

Using dance, improvisation and acrobatics, the artists will depict the delicate bond between a couple as they try to find their individuality.

Devised theatre

“When staying together for so long, you see the best in each other during the process and the worst in each other and that roller-coaster fuels the creative process,” says Sacks, a voice and theatre artist from New York.

“It was a cross-cultural exchange for Loom Ensemble to be in Italy with this group of American, European and UAE artists,” he says.

The artists involved include the US director Emma Jaster, the Emirati assistant director and production assistant Mira Al Qassimi from Sharjah and the Italian graphic designer Antonio Stella.

Jen Kutler, from Brooklyn, has created an experimental track using ambient sounds.

“Musically, it is a combination of sweet, simple, vocal melodies and a much more modern soundscape,” says Sacks.

“For instance, we all had recording equipment with us, so when we cooked together we would record the sound of the spatula in the frying pan. And through electronic recording, producing and distorting, these sounds were rearranged, which feeds back into the everyday, relatable life theme.”

Cockrell says that builds a transformative atmosphere for the audience. “Each scene has its own sound ambience. So you get a feeling of where we are based on the sounds you hear. It is a little abstract but it is recognisable.”

Kim Upstill from San Francisco handled costume and set design.

“We were living in a stone monastery, so we were surrounded by stones and the show now has actual rocks in it,” says Cockrell. “It was also the figs season there, so we got figs into the piece, too. The set additions have a symbolic meaning to them.”

Residency at thejamjar

Loom Ensemble has also begun workshops in collaborative theatre at thejamjar every week. Contemporary dance classes, meditation, creativity workshops and contact improv sessions will be taught and students will have the opportunity to devise their own ensemble performance to present at the Short+Sweet festival next month, as well.

• Prime will be staged starting January 29, every Thursday and Friday until February 27 from 8pm at thejamjar. Entry is on donation basis from Dh50. For more information about the workshops, visit loomensemble.com

aahmed@thenational.ae

Updated: January 28, 2015 04:00 AM

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