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Dance group aims to dive deeper into ‘Grimm’ stories at Schenectady Light Opera

Dance group aims to dive deeper into ‘Grimm’ stories at Schenectady Light Opera

Nazmo Collective performances, discussions will explore fairy tales’ underlying themes
Dance group aims to dive deeper into ‘Grimm’ stories at Schenectady Light Opera
Stories of frog princes (with green sash) and other folk tales will be explored by the Nazmo Dance Collective this weekend.
Photographer: Quentin Burley

Frogs that turn into princes. A servant girl who finds fortune. An elderly woman who turns into a flaming vampire. They’ll be some of the fairy tales dancers will bring to life Saturday at Schenectady Light Opera.

What makes this more than a performance, however, is that it’s also a conversation among the dancers and audience about the underlying themes of the folk tales, both in a preperformance workshop and a postperformance discussion. 

Brooklyn-based Nazmo Dance Collective created the concept for this project, which is named “Grimm” after the two brothers who made collections of more than 250 folk stories during the 19th century.

“Our goals are to make these stories accessible and to promote conversation as to their social relevance,” said Danielle Kipnis, the choreographer and creative originator.

“This is our third year working with the Grimm tales. We wanted to take a different lens to explore the undertones that resonate.”

For instance, she said, most people know about the frog prince tales in which a girl kisses the frog and he turns into a prince.

But there are other tales where he’s a pushy frog who forces the girl to kiss him, thereby asserting his power, and then he turns into a prince.

“These are identity issues, such as when the frog prince sheds his skin. It speaks about how people perceive us from the outside and how the skin gives us or takes away our power,” Kipnis said.

Costumes, such as the male dancer who wears a green sash as the frog, will help the audience “see” the tale, which will be read by folklorist Kay Turner. Folk tales of Germany, including “Cinderella,” and those of the Caribbean — especially Guyana, which involves the vampire female legends of “The Soucouyant” — will also be portrayed.

“The first half will be from the Western perspective, and that will be juxtaposed with the Caribbean tales and current tales in the second half,” Kipnis said.

Since Nazmo’s founding in 2013, the company, which includes six dancers, has always combined innovative dance performance with workshops that explore the social world. They began working on the Grimm project in 2017, and after two years Kipnis said she wanted to “broaden her scope” with more local ethnic communities. She contacted New York Folklore, which was founded in 1944 as the state’s Folk Arts Program with professional folklorists who work throughout the state, and is located at 129 Jay St. Ellen McHale, the organization’s executive director, was invited in April to come to Nazmo’s “Grimm” performance.

“Ellen saw our show and knew of the large Guyanese community in the region,” Kipnis said. “She thought our show would be a nice fit for the area.”

In the preperformance workshop, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, participants can work with dancers who will show them techniques to bring a tale to life. People can also share their own folk stories. The postperformance discussion will be both a question-and-answer session and a chance for everyone to share their opinions about the themes presented.

“Grimm” will be repeated Sunday in Troy with only the postperformance discussion.

Nazmo Dance Collective in ‘Grimm’

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady; Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River St., Troy
HOW MUCH: $10; workshop is free
MORE INFO: 518 346-7008; 518 730-7370

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