Jessica Lang Dance and José Parlá’s “us/we”


Here is news on Cuban American artist José Parlá’s latest collaboration—“us/we”—with choreographer Jessica Lang and costume designer Moriah Black. The multimedia project had its first debut at The Annenberg Center Live (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), presented by NextMove Dance. Here is a review—“Dance as fine dining”—by Camille Bacon-Smith (BroadStreetReview):

If the first act was a selection of hors-d’oeuvres, “us/we” was the main course. The title let us know what we were going to see: us/we instead of us/them; but also, the creators of the piece told us, it stands for “The United States Welcomes Everyone.” The goal, they said, was to express the issues of the day from the perspectives of the personal stories the news never covers. Set in four parts, the piece gave us city life from the view under the El.

The piece moved beyond the hierarchy that makes lighting and scenic design accessories to the dance. Lang, artist José Parlá, and costume designer Moriah Black described a process so collaborative that some of the costumes were made from the cloths Parlá used to clean up after painting. The stains from his paint make the patterns on the cloth. The result was my favorite piece of the night: not just a dance but a multimedia event. Parlá’s video art seemed to partner the dancers.

Bringing the city to life

The dance opened to an abstract backdrop, a Pollock-like paint-splattered wall. The dancers stood with their backs to us in those paint-stained costumes, rocking from foot to foot, marching slowly toward that wall. It was a moment of resignation, and the whole section felt like the “before” of refugees’ flight — death and escape, but also ties to the past and those left behind.

Part two lands us firmly in New York City, where we stay for the rest of the ballet, the dancers now in a patchwork of streetwear costumes. There is sorrow here too, but also joy. With the El rattling on video behind them, a dancers’ version passes across the stage, four men in a row, carrying their partners as passengers sitting on their shoulders. [. . .]

For full review, see

For more on this and other events, see

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