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Sorrows and joys of Roma women told through dance

Thursday, January 31, 2019

LAWRENCE — A veteran flamenco dancer and innovator in the international performing arts scene, Belén Maya examines race, identity, migration, domestic abuse and cultural traditions through her original theatre dance work, “Romnia.” “Romnia” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14-15 at the Sherbon Black Box Theatre in Robinson Center on the University of Kansas campus. A Q&A with the artist will follow each night’s performance.

Her experimental contemporary dance theatre work incorporates text, movement, percussive footwork, circus feats and street busking to an original score. In “Romnia,” which means women in the Romani language, Maya portrays many women at the same time and explores their intersecting identities. She allows for quick costume changes, improvisation and audience participation as she tells the story of Roma women.

“This solo show will raise awareness of a marginalized group pejoratively referred to as ‘gypsy,’ but more appropriately called Roma,” said Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor of dance and flamenco scholar. “Roma people have faced prejudice for centuries. They have been forcibly displaced, subjected to repressive laws, sent to Nazi concentration camps, and yet they continue to fight for recognition and civil rights. Belén is of Roma descent, and both of her parents were famous flamenco dancers, so this work is very personal to her, and that comes through in this captivating and courageous piece.”

As a young woman, Maya became instantly recognized around the world in Carlos Saura’s 1995 film “Flamenco,” for which she put her own trademark moves on bulerías, a dramatic flamenco form that requires speed and agility. She’s known for departing from the traditional flamenco forms.

“Romnia” is free and open to the public, but a ticket is required for entry. General admission tickets are available in person at the University Theatre box office in Murphy Hall or by calling 785-864-3982. Limited tickets may be available at the door the night of the event. At the event, donations to the Willow Domestic Violence Center will be accepted, and resources for domestic violence survivors will be available. “Romnia” includes adult content and subject matter that may not be appropriate for all audiences.

The public is also invited to a Trauma and Transformation Workshop with Maya from March 11 through 15, an alternative to spring break that focuses on self-development. This workshop is for adults who want to use movement, emotions, the natural elements, improvisation and flamenco dance and music to grow and change. No dance experience is necessary. All abilities are welcome, but space is limited. Pre-registration is required.

Email kudance@ku.edu or call 785-843-2787 to sign up for the workshop or for more information about the “Romnia” performance. Maya’s work at KU is made possible by the Janet Hamburg Guest Artist Fund.

The Department of Theatre & Dance is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies. For more about the department, visit theatredance.ku.edu.