(HERE Artist Residency Program)

Ofelia The Invincible Yara Travieso & Sam Crawford

Show Description

A musical film retelling of a young woman’s three month migrant journey through 10 countries to a new home, Ofelia The Invincible offers an alternate perspective on "the hero’s journey." The production unfolds through choreographic storytelling both on stage and on camera, and is accompanied by a live five-piece band.
Over a long dinner in 2014, Yara Travieso’s cousin, Mirlita, recounted the long journey of how she had arrived to the United States traveling by foot only a few months prior. Her story and the monumental risk she took to leave her home for something foreign has stayed with Travieso ever since. It is the ruthless struggle of a young woman vs. terrain, vs. endurance, vs. male gaze, and vs. herself. The journey touched upon so many great fears particular to living inside the body of a woman, living as a foreigner, and being perceived as both. Even so, her story captured a lightness only found in the absurdities of the magical realist tales handed down by the women in Travieso's family.
Utilizing the quest-like structure employed in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities or in Homer’s The Odyssey to help guide the narrative and using her cousin’s journey as a jumping-off point, Travieso’s new work makes room for a new kind mythical heroine within her female protagonist, Ofelia. A feature film and a live musical, Ofelia The Invincible weaves the 2-dimensional cinematic screen with the expansive principles of live theater and dance.
We follow our protagonist, Ofelia, in a heroine's journey: not attempting to go back home, but rather running to arrive somewhere that isn’t. The work is split into a series of episodes or poems; each episode represents a new border crossing, a new country, and a new physical landscape altogether. The incidents unfold through experiential and visceral narrative which translates into moving physical bodies in direct confrontation with their environment. For example, on screen we see Ofelia with a group of travelers being hosted in a secret house to rest for the night. When the group arrives, they see a house stripped of any furniture. The only notable feature is the dense carpet of sleeping male bodies piled one next to the other like a match book. The image of these tightly squeezed bodies breathing and undulating is suddenly supported by a kind of oceanic wave musical score, transforming their movements into choreography that emphasize this treacherous oceanic landscape our protagonist initially escaped from. These kinds of hyper-real choreographic moments help create stunning and mythical-like imagery out of a true story, yet, without the sense of escapism found in the traditional Hollywood Musical.
There is an apparent physical awareness both with the exhaustive surrounding landscapes that test her endurance, as well with the the looming physical threat of being a young woman traveling on a covert journey with a group of strange men. Ofelia The Invincible uses Latin American traditions of magical realism to take the narrative into an absurd playground of flexible realities that serve a bigger metaphorical purpose. In a particular film chapter, Ofelia is portrayed as a feral dog on camera, as she moves through that entire country revealing certain crude aspects of the story through the animal’s point of view.
The work is altogether a visceral feminine journey through a heroine’s jungle, desert, and ocean of obstacles. This is her true, glory-full, and exhaustingly intimate quest for blind freedom. Travieso is personally interested in a more visceral, physical and experiential way of telling the story of gender and cultural “otherness” that is as far away from the popular media as possible.

Project photo by Yara Travieso
Artists: Yara Travieso (photo by Daniel Terenzio)

Featured Media

Artist Bio

Written, Directed, and Choreographed by Yara Travieso
Music and Libretto by Sam Crawford

Yara Travieso is based in NYC and is a director and choreographer creating film and stage works. Travieso is a  2016 Creative Capital recipient, and a 2015 NALAC grantee through the Ford Foundation and the Surdna Foundation. Soon after graduating from The Juilliard School (Dance), she co-founded the renowned Borscht Film Festival in Miami FL. Today, Travieso creates and produces her own hybrid productions--- intersecting dance, cinema, and storytelling. They have been presented all around the world in numerous venues such as, Lincoln Center, Performance Space 122, BRIC, Opéra National de Lorraine France, and Amphithéâtre D'oin Montpellier, New World Symphony Center, Museum of The Moving Image, SXSW, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Miami International Film Festival, and more. She has created commercials and short films for Hermes of Paris, Glamour, GQ, Elle and more. She lectures, holds workshops, and teaches classes around the world.

Sam Crawford completed degrees in English and Audio Technology at Indiana University in 2003. A move to New York City led him to Looking Glass Studios where he worked on film projects with Philip Glass and Björk. His recent sound designs and compositions have included works for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company (Venice Biennale, 2010), Kyle Abraham (Pavement, 2012), Camille A. Brown and Dancers (BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, 2016) and David Dorfman Dance (BAM Next Wave, 2013). La Medea, Crawford’s live multi-media collaboration with director Yara Travieso, premiered at PS122’s Coil Festival in January of 2017.

Artist Statement

Yara Travieso creates film and stage works that employ dance, cinema, installation and music to tell psychological and conceptual narratives of a woman in crisis. Playing with media and spectacle, Travieso is interested in carving out large physical, visual and metaphorical spaces for her female characters to perform bold and absurd tantrums of dissatisfaction. Although vastly different in form or medium, each work addresses satirical and sincere explorations into her freedom, emptiness, identity, and otherness. Often playing with subtitles, other languages, and referencing myths that directly address the foreign woman, she confronts “the other” and carves out freedoms within the tropes and traps of female archetypes. Travieso contextualizes her characters through physical and dramaturgical interventions with cameras, scenery, environment, and audience members, allowing for the process of demystification and "behind the scenes" to occur. These physical and conceptual circumstances play a crucial role in legitimizing her characters’ heightened states and function as entry points for storytelling, myth, and satire.

Sam Crawford makes sound scores, original compositions, sound designs, and librettos influenced by literature, history, and tradition. Fascinated by psychoacoustic reactions to electro-acoustic sounds, Crawford’s scores tend to be performed live by real instruments with real physical properties and real physical limitations (electric guitar, brass, saxophones, banjos, analog synthesizers, etc).  Similarly, his work with text arises from an interest in a kind of poetic truth, playing with a mix of source texts and original writings to find intersections where the two can combine to create new narratives. Crawford’s music and lyricism collectively form a continued exploration of the coexistence of tenderness and ferocity in the human heart, allowing the audience to glance the world through his characters’ eyes. For Ofelia, Crawford studies how the sounds of the natural world are incorporated into the main character’s psychological landscape (the sound of two-cycle engines, the sound of a roomful of people hiding and breathing, etc) by deconstructing field recordings and using them as an entry point for instrumental composition.

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