HUNTER — Works & Process at Catskill Mountain Foundation, the new digital series recently announced by Works and Process at the Guggenheim and Catskill Mountain Foundation, presents “Take Me Back” from New York Is Burning by Omari Wiles, performed by Les Ballet Afrik, on YouTube.com starting at 7:30 p.m. June 6. This digital program blends illuminating artist discussion with performance highlights to reveal the creative process of a new commission being created inside a Works & Process bubble residency housed at the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Orpheum Film & Performing Arts Center. The new commission premiered live at the Guggenheim on May 4, 2021.
Since its release in 1990, the documentary Paris Is Burning has received critical acclaim for its depiction of the New York drag ball scene and of voguing as a powerful expression of personal pride in the face of racism, homophobia, and the stigma of the AIDS crisis. To honor the film’s thirtieth anniversary, Works & Process commissioned Omari Wiles, founding father of the House of Oricci and a legend within the ballroom community, to produce New York Is Burning. With its premiere at the Guggenheim postponed due to the pandemic, the project was supported with a summer 2020 Works & Process bubble residency at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, where Wiles continued to develop the commission for his company, Les Ballet Afrik. The residency culminated in a filmed performance at Lincoln Center, serving as an affirmation of love, acceptance, and joy.
Just as Paris Is Burning did for New York in 1980s, New York Is Burning reflects the aspirations, desires, and yearnings of a diverse group of dancers in a city beset by health, race, and financial crises. Wiles’s new work centers on the dancers for whom the dance company serves as a surrogate family including Kya Azeen, Eva Bust A’ Move, Algin FordSterling, Alora Martinez, Shireen Rahimi, Milerka Rodriguez, Kameron N. Saunders, Karma Stylz, and Yuki Sukezane. In preparation for its official premiere, New York Is Burning received a second Works & Process bubble residency at Catskill Mountain Foundation in April and May of 2021. When it premiered, the piece brought ballroom to the Guggenheim in a work featuring Wiles’s AfrikFusion, a style that combines traditional African dances and Afrobeat with house dance and vogue.