Theater company brings ‘The Iliad’ to life – Essex News Daily

Photo courtesy of Gary Heller
The Mosaic Dance Theater Co. takes the stage during a performance of “Ubar, Lost City of Brass.”

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Battle plans are being drawn up by Mosaic Dance Theater Co. of Glen Ridge as the company prepares for its first in-person performance since 2019. The offering, inspired by “The Iliad” by Homer, is titled “Troy, Women of War.” It is written by company founder and Artistic Director Producer Morgiana Celeste Varricchio, and choreographed by Samara Adell.

Earlier in the pandemic, the company produced virtual performances, funded by an Essex County grant. Videos were made of the dancers performing in their homes, and the videos were edited together by the company’s technical director, Bob Greenwald.

“It was an interesting concept for us, and we had a live concert for Dining Under the Stars, a Bloomfield Center Alliance program,” Varricchio said in a recent phone interview.

Founded in 2003, MDTC creates and presents dance and theater performances driven by the folk traditions of the Mediterranean regions of North Africa, Southern Europe and the Middle East.
And now to the ramparts.

Homer’s “Iliad” is an epic poem chronicling the actions of mortals and gods during the Trojan War between the Greeks and Trojans. Varricchio’s story begins with “The Judgment of Paris”, a mythological tale about a beauty contest between three goddesses. The competition is judged by Paris, a Trojan horse who is bribed by a contestant and rewarded by the beautiful Helen, a Greek and wife of Menelaus. The kidnapping of the illicit couple precipitates the siege of Troy, an ancient city located in present-day Turkey. The Greeks are the eventual victors of the barbarian war.

“I’m working on the story now,” Verricchio said in an interview on Friday, January 7. “It will certainly be a dance with a narrative, from the judgment of Paris to the end, when the women of Troy are taken as slaves.

The idea of ​​writing a story about the Trojan War from the perspective of female characters came to Varricchio a few years ago, she said, after hearing the music of Lebanese singer Fairuz.

“It’s not just victory and defeat when the story is told by women,” she said. “It’s not just a count of the dead.”

Rehearsals are due to begin in late January in Manhattan.
The music for “Troy, Women of War” is by Jehan Kamal.

“She creates a cinematic sound in my ear with an Arabic percussive line,” Varricchio said. “Music tells me how to write history. So, I create this analysis, the dramaturgy. I write non-verbal action when the action makes sense with the music.

While Varricchio works on the words, Adell, the choreographer, gets involved and receives only the music.
“We’ve been working like this for several years,” Varricchio continued. “Our creative process is very open.”

But while history is being written, it belongs only to Varricchio.
“It’s a character-driven play,” she said. “Characters must show growth.”
The production has a cast of five women and two men. The men will play the role of the main Greek and Trojan fighters. The women will embody mortals and Trojan goddesses. The duration will be approximately 60 minutes, without intermission.

“We want to do it live, but you have considerations,” Varricchio said. “But we’re shooting to make it live.”

During the rehearsals, the dancers will bring their creative contribution, in particular for the numerous solo spots.
“We want the best production possible,” Varricchio said. “Everyone is involved.”
She noted that a Middle Eastern dancer must be able to isolate their body parts; the movements are not balletic.
“The dancer is another part of the orchestra,” she said. “The music tells you which step to use.”
The costumes are created by Varricchio, who said he found a place to buy helmets.

“Costumes also make a statement,” she said. “The music isn’t traditional, so neither are the costumes. People don’t need to look like they descended from a Greek urn.
There will be a two-show free run at First Congregational Church in Montclair on Saturday May 21 and Sunday May 22. Registration will be compulsory.

Performances are also planned at local libraries. MDTC, which has extensive school programming, has performed in the area and at Lincoln Center. The hope is that the band will once again cross the Hudson River with “Troy, Women of War.”

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