“Asa Nisi Masa” is a new dance and music film from the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble which takes its title from the childhood incantation spoken in Federico Fellini’s film “8 1/2”. The phrase Asa Nisi Masa evokes a beautiful memory for the main character of the film of an era filled with compassion and love.
“Asa Nisi Masa”, with choreography, montage and costumes by Michele Brangwen and music composed by Danielle Reich, Thomas Helton and Tim Hagans, also features movement and music spontaneously created in the moment by all performers. dancers Robin Gilbert, Cristian Laverde König and Michele Brangwen; saxophonists Robin Verheyen and Jon Irabagon; trumpeter Tim Hagans; bassist Thomas Helton and singer Danielle Reich interact live on a rooftop in New York City.
The idea behind the film was to create a sort of dance and music mantra and send it out into the world. “Asa Nisi Masa” is the first time that Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble has worked in person as a fully vaccinated ensemble. For previous projects during the pandemic, they had rehearsed only through Zoom and filmed each artist separately for safety reasons.
The final section of the film is Brangwen’s secular take on the idea of the Tibetan prayer flag. Brangwen writes: “The idea behind the prayer flag is not that the person hanging it asks the wind to carry a request for something, but rather seeks to send kindness into all spaces. I think we are now in a time where we need to send as much kindness and healing energy as possible into our fractured world. Part of the costume that each performer wears becomes a flag at the end. I wanted to try to make the flag very personal. “
Brangwen explains, “Nothing in the middle section of the improvisations in the film was planned or traced, and we only did one take, so gusts of wind sometimes hit the mics, the helicopters buzz and the performers come out. sometimes out of the setting, but for me It only added to the immediacy and honesty of the moment. What emerged were those incredible moments like dancer Cristian Laverde König, with trumpeter Tim Hagans and saxophonist Robin Verheyen, seeming to take every note of the effusive call of the musicians in his body and in the end, exchanging riffs with them as if his body were a third horn. Dancer Robin Gilbert and the same two musicians tell a mysterious story that seems full of pathos and nostalgia, culminating when Ms. Gilbert pulls the two musicians into her in a enveloping embrace. For me, it’s magic. “
Some people believe that Fellini was sending a hidden message in the phrase Asa Nisi Masa, using an Italian form of porcine Latin that adds an “sa” and an “if” to words in order to disguise them. If you take the roots of each word in the expression Asa Nisi Masa, the letters form the word Anima, which is the Italian word for soul. Brangwen writes: “This act of creating dance and music together is part of our soul, so what better thing could we send in the world. This is what we have to offer and we send it with love. . “
Live broadcasts of “Asa Nisi Masa” will include a real-time introduction by choreographer and filmmaker Michele Brangwen and composer and trumpeter Tim Hagans, and a post-premiere section where performers respond in front of the camera to comments and questions from the audience. tonight September 19 via Facebook. The film will be shown again, followed by a question-and-answer session on YouTube on September 26. The events are free.
The Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble is a contemporary dance company featuring all new choreography, original live music and the integration of all of our musicians into visual imagery, so dancers and musicians break the boundaries of the traditional interaction of sets. In 20 years, each performance has included live music and musicians as an integral part of the visual imagery of the stage. We believe that the role of the artist in society is to communicate, to challenge, to open a dialogue that can both unite us and inspire significant change. We operate as a jazz band and, with sections of choreographed movements and written music, we use the improvisation that flows from the form, concept and emotional life of the work. The Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble is based in New York and Houston. www.brangwendance.org