Frida Kahlo inspires Chicago's Luna Negra Dance Theater

"Feet, why do I need them if I have wings to fly?"

- Frida Kahlo

Paloma Querida 1 - featuring Justine Humenansky, Martha Perdomo & Kirsten Shelton, photo by Cheryl Mann-1.jpg

Photo by Cheryl Mann

The life and work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo has inspired other artists to create poetry, plays, movies.

And now dance.

This Saturday at the Harris Theater Chicago's Luna Negra Dance Theater will premiere "Paloma Querida" inspired by the paintings and life of Kahlo.  

"She had a great love of life. Even though she went through so many things in her life, (polio, a crippling accident and betrayal), these things never kept her down," said Michelle Manzanales, who choreographed the dance piece told me in an interview.

The dance is primarily inspired by four of Kahlo's paintings "Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress" (1926), "My Dress Hangs There" (1933), "Self Portrait with Cropped Hair" (1940) and "The Broken Column," (1944).  
The painting of a young Frida wearing a red velvet dress was one she showed to famous muralist Diego Rivera when she was a young artist. (They would later marry.)

The other painting, "My Dress Hangs There," is one she painted in New York when Rivera was painting a mural in Rockefeller Center. It reflects her conflict over living in the United States showing a Oaxaca-style dress amidst symbols of American capitalism.

"Self Portrait with Cropped Hair" was painted by Kahlo after her divorce from Rivera who was a known philanderer, including an affair with her sister. In this painting she cut off all her long hair. She's wearing an oversized men's suit that looks like one of Rivera's. At the top of the painting there is an inscription. "See, if I loved you, it was for your hair, Now you're bald, I don't love you anymore."

"The Broken Column," one of Kahlo's most famous paintings, shows her bare-chested with a metal spinal column and nails in her skin. It shows the pain she felt in life both physical and emotional. At the same time it shows her courage.

Manzanales explained  the dance piece is not a biographical portrait of Kahlo. The work takes the audience through different vignettes.

"She was very revealing and honest. She painted her heart and her emotions into her paintings," said Manzanales, who also is the interim artistic
director of Luna Negra. "She was so passionate not only about her art but about government,
life, social issues."

Right now "Paloma Querida" will only be shown one night. It could be
incorporated into a future season of Luna Negra but at this time there
are no concrete plans.

Manzanales hopes the piece will help
people connect with the honesty of Kahlo's work and of art in general.

"When
you are writing, painting or dancing you are revealing something about
yourself. I am really drawn to that in my choreography and dance,"
Manzanales said. "As artists when you're honest like that the audience
is allowed to be honest as well."

Filed under: dance, Mexico, women

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