NYU's Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts presents the world premiere of Mabou Mines' Red Beads, a visually spectacular collaboration between Lee Breuer, the avant-garde puppeteer Basil Twist and Japanese composer Ushio Torikai. Produced by Mabou Mines in association with the Skirball Center, who is also co-commissioner of the work.
In Red Beads, Breuer combines the seemingly disparate arts of performance, movement, opera, and puppetry. He takes as his point of departure an original story by Polina Klimovitskaya about an adolescent girl's coming of age, setting it in Edwardian New England. For her 13th birthday, the girl at the center of the story is promised her mother's necklace of 13 red beads. The daughter's deliberate ascension to womanhood, and her mother's corresponding demise, culminates in a battle to the death between them.
To realize this symbolic tale, the show's creators use vertical choreography -- a synthesis of aerial acrobatics, contact improvisation and ancient Japanese ceremonial dance -- and wind puppetry. Most of the action takes place in the air above the stage, where cast members fly and swaths of silk dance, seemingly unencumbered by human intervention. The show unfolds as a rhymed ballad a la Coleridge's Ancient Mariner or Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. If the production's visual aesthetic is reminiscent of Symbolism and Surrealism, Torikai's score draws inspiration from the choral music of Japanese nuns and mixes it with electronic elements and traditional Western tonalities. Three soloists and a choir handle the sung passages, while the poem becomes a piece of the set via projections of the text.