“…the music take her on a surprising voyage to different and exciting places where she makes new friends, and finds out that music and adventure are even better when shared with others.” (Mariko’s Magical Mix: A Dance Adventure)
Yesterday, October 11, 2015, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the world premiere performance – Mariko’s Magical Mix: A Dance Adventure – at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with patient families. Hubbard Street 2 and Manual Cinema collaborated to create this simply magical concert at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theatre. In this very clever production, all are magically transported into so many different lands, watching fabulous dancing among animate and inanimate objects which is magical in itself!
An audience of primarily children and families filled the theatre, making for a boisterous pre-concert. As the lights dimmed to notify everyone that the concert was about to begin, a quiet hush settled into the concert hall in anticipation of the performance; all except for one loudly crying child who was carried out the theatre’s side door reluctantly by a flustered parent. This is par for the course for family concerts and is readily forgiven by fellow audience members, even during the actual performances. Throughout the concerts, I heard children asking parents inquisitive questions, whispering, laughing, gasping in awe and just being kids. So wonderful to witness the theatre being accessible to everyone, young and old alike!
Mariko’s Magical Mix combined dance, puppetry, music of all genres and even mirror-ball disco lights. Hubbard Street (aside: one of my favorite dance companies) dancers beautifully crafted an imaginative story without saying a single word – only using their bodies. Shadows danced with other shadows, cardboard boxes came to life, dancers jumped inside and repaired musical robots, and dots of light sprung into existence in this delightful performance.
The story first finds Mariko, in a colorful dress and funky pigtails, bored and tethered to her personal headphones. Mariko soon discovers her Mom’s vinyl records in the attic, which take her on a surprising journey when played. Some mysterious person steals Mariko’s headphones and she chases her precious headphone throughout the tale. Mariko befriends two others during this magical journey, one from the country and one from the city, who share in her adventure. Hubbard Street artists masterfully danced behind, in-front, around and under periodically moving large opaque screens, with bright lights and shadow-puppets casting a whole host of characters and scenes that take the audience on this journey. Dancers pranced in wheat fields, dived into oceans, strolled down city streets, ran up flights of stairs, leaped from rooftop to rooftop, and jumped inside a musical robot.
In the end (spoiler…), Mariko awakes in her attic, with her headphones laying next to her. She is joined by her brother who impishly surprises her. She poignantly puts aside the headphones and joyfully shares music with her brother by playing their Mom’s vinyl records. As David Bowie’s “Starman” comes out of record player, a stream of star-shape lights blanket the whole Family Theatre in a glorious display, as if saying, “We are sharing this magic with all of you too”!
Yesterday afternoon, I found music, dance, puppets, theatre, and patient families to be a “Magical Mix” itself, radiating throughout the Family Theatre and streaming out into the grand Kennedy Center Hall (and beyond) following the concert! This type of magic creates an internal sense of wonder and transforms the world into lightness and joy. The smiles on the faces of the patient families created by the various “magical” performances at the theatre (and pediatric healthcare institutions too) so often reinforce my resolve to give the gift of the arts to even more kids and families who are dealing with difficult medical issues. The arts “…are even better when shared with others”!
Thank you to Children’s National Medical Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for partnering with The XA Project to make this magical event happen for patient families! And BRAVO Hubbard Street 2 and Manual Cinema!