Art news

Tall tales: New book shows off artist’s work with stilt dancers

Lauren Anderson Barbata has friends in high places.

Story by Samantha Lim - Source: http://www.brooklynpaper.com
Parading: Zalika Cuffy Scott, Uniq Jeanette Peter, Aliyah Parris, Burundi Johnson Chung, and Jeanine Johnson are part of the Brooklyn Jumbies, who performed as the Colors of Mexico at the West Indian American Junior Carnival, in 2010.  Photo © Frank Veronsky

Parading: Zalika Cuffy Scott, Uniq Jeanette Peter, Aliyah Parris, Burundi Johnson Chung, and Jeanine Johnson are part of the Brooklyn Jumbies, who performed as the Colors of Mexico at the West Indian American Junior Carnival, in 2010. Photo © Frank Veronsky

Lauren Anderson Barbata has friends in high places.

The artist has spent a decade making films, creating costumes, and even running errands on the low ground — ensuring everyone’s got their emergency kits — for towering stilt dancers known as “moko jumbies” in Brooklyn and abroad.

Dancers of moko jumbie, which is emblematic of African-Carribean culture, perform on stilts as high as 15 feet.

“I serve as a link between the earth and the sky,” said Barbata, whose monographic book “Transcommunality: Interventions and Collaborations in Stilt Dancing Communities” is launching at Greenlight bookstore in Fort Greene this May 25.

“I became this protective ‘jumbie mother’ who prevents people from bumping into performers’ stilts.”

The multi-talented artist said she first began working with a stilt dancing community in poor regions of Trinidad and Tobago, where spread word through art venues and films about the increasingly ambitious performances of performers aged four to twenty. After winning awards, and creating a documentary, the dancing groups got their own book, called “Moko Jumbies.”

“They didn’t have an infrastructure or enough volunteers, whereas other carnival groups did,” Barbata said of the dancers when she first met them.

Barbata, who shuffles back and forth between New York and Mexico, soon began collaborating with moko jumbies based in Brooklyn and Oaxaca, Mexico, to give them same kind of media exposure she gave the kids in southern Caribbean.

She first bumped into the Brooklyn Jumbies while volunteering at New York’s Halloween Parade. After introducing herself, Barbata discovered that her reputation had preceded her; the Brooklyn Jumbies had heard of Barbata’s work and were delighted to finally meet her. Since then Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies have collaborated on numerous projects including “Intervention: Wall Street,” a dance choreographed in conjunction with Occupy Wall Street in November 2011.

“Exchanging and sharing knowledge does not weaken you. On the contrary, it makes each party more aware of their unique strengths,” said Barbata.

The book event will include a panel discussion with collaborators and a surprise performance.

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