Made to Dance in Burning Buildings by Anya Pearson

Directed by Jamie M. Rea

A showcase production of Made to Dance in Burning Buildings played to a sold out house at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater on April 24, 2018.

The World Premiere of Made to Dance in Burning Buildings recently closed its successful five-week run (Feb. 15-Mar. 16, 2019) at Shaking the Tree Theatre in Portland, Oregon. 

Made to Dance in Burning Buildings is a fusion of poetry, theatre, and violent and visceral contemporary dance which poses the question: HOW DO WE HEAL FROM TRAUMA?

 

It's about Ava, a young black woman, who is raped by her boyfriend's friends while he watches; she develops PTSD as a result.

Metaphorically, she fractures into five different women who each represent a different facet of her personality (Romance, Despair, Madness, Perseverance, and Missing You). Poetically, these women narrate her journey through PTSD while she, her first love, and her abusers explore through dance the trauma and the events leading up to it. 

Based on a true story, and inspired by the original choreopoem, Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls, this play seeks to revolutionize the theatrical experience by combining poetry and breathtaking and gut wrenching contemporary dance to tell an all too familiar story in a brand new way. 

For the play, Anya is the inaugural winner of the $10,000 Voice is a Muscle Grant from the Corporeal Voices Foundation which is run by best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch. The grant recognizes a writer of color from Oregon who demonstrates exemplary merit and a passion for social justice.    

 

Critics’ Reviews of Made to Dance in Burning Buildings:

From Bennett Campbell Ferguson of Willamette Week:

“Pearson's creation exists in a completely different galaxy than most theatrical works.”

“Pearson herself is a survivor of rape, and there are times when Made to Dance in Burning Buildings seems to be saying, "See me. Understand what I experienced," which is what makes the play feel so personal and revelatory. It is a story for survivors, but it is also a story for perpetrators who have never confronted the consequences of their actions and bystanders who have looked the other way for too long.”

Made to Dance in Burning Buildings deserves to be seen. By letting words and movements flow together in a sometimes surreal surge of feeling, Pearson, Rea and the cast and crew don't give in to the allure of easy answers and instead have created a potent and primal work of art about how Ava rejects her attackers' hold on her. That's what makes the production not only a powerful lament, but a brave, epic and steadfast tale of rebirth.”

Read the full Willamette Week Review here:

From Ben Waterhouse of The Oregonian:

“Made to Dance in Burning Buildings” shares cadences and metaphorical stylings with Shange’s “choreopoem,” which tells the stories of black women’s experiences of racist and sexist oppression. In its bleakest and most claustrophobic moments, as abusers on stilts scratch at the torn walls of Ava’s psyche, demanding to be let in, it also recalls “4.48 Psychosis,” Sarah Kane’s suffocating exploration of depression and self-harm. But where Kane was obsessed with destruction, Pearson celebrates survival and closes the performance with a defiant soliloquy, saying, “I am not your victim.”

Read the full Oregonian Review here:

 
Amber Bates as Ava and Jeff George as First Love in the Shaking the Tree Production of Made to Dance in Burning Buildings, 2019. Photo: Gary Norman.

Amber Bates as Ava and Jeff George as First Love in the Shaking the Tree Production of Made to Dance in Burning Buildings, 2019. Photo: Gary Norman.

Audience Reaction to Made to Dance in Burning Buildings:
“This is absolutely one of the best pieces of theatre we have ever seen.This is so well done, words cannot do this justice. Do not miss a chance to see this.”

Anya Pearsonis a very talented and courageous playwright to be able to turn a deeply traumatic experience into a lyrical theatrical piece using poetry to share her experience and offer the hope of healing to others who see themselves in this play.”

“This! Anya Pearson speaks and dances the truths we try run away from.”

Anya Pearson, a beautiful force in this world. On Friday, my mom and I attended the opening of Anya’s choreopoem, Made to Dance in Burning Buildings, directed by Jamie M. Rea at Shaking the Tree. Through poetry and dance, Anya transforms heart-crushing grief into a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I sobbed, exalted and felt my heart full of gratitude to be able to share the space and experience of growth, perseverance, and to be reminded of the immeasurable power that exists in the act of creating. Anya, the world is blessed to have you.” 

“The most powerful expression of trauma I’ve ever seen. Courageous and intense, Made to Dance in Burning Buildings gives audiences a unique opportunity to witness precisely what it means to be a Survivor. To see this production is to see Us. Congratulations to Anya, cast, and crew, on an astonishing show."

 

Anya Pearson and Aleca Piper. Showcase Production of Made to Dance in Burning Buildings, Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, April 2018. Photo by Susie Lang.

Anya Pearson and Aleca Piper. Showcase Production of Made to Dance in Burning Buildings, Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, April 2018. Photo by Susie Lang.


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Anya Pearson (back), Kayla Banks (middle), and Tammy Jo Wilson (seated). Above a Whisper, SALT, Shaking the Tree. May 2018. Photo: Meg Nanna.

Anya Pearson (back), Kayla Banks (middle), and Tammy Jo Wilson (seated). Above a Whisper, SALT, Shaking the Tree. May 2018. Photo: Meg Nanna.

 

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