"Movement creates sound, and when it's synchronized it becomes music," says Boaz Berman, artistic director and co-creator of "Currents," a vigorous, energy-infused multimedia dance, music, video and light show by Israeli dance troupe Mayumana that makes its Long Island debut at Stony Brook University's Staller Center on March 9.
Mayumana (from the Hebrew meyumanut, or highly skilled) makes music visual, Berman says. Bursts of intense colored light, artful projections and superbly synchronized movements create spectacular images. "There's a lot of energy, a cast of eight people. They play. They sing. They dance," he explains. "We make music from water, from flippers, from tubes, from our bodies. … There's a whole world of sound and percussion." Rhythm, he says, is in the troupe's DNA.
Beats come from plopping dollops of water, cardboard surfaces, sledgehammers, bottles, pipes and even a few recognizable instruments, like guitars. Add to those leaping bodies banging cans, clapping, tapping, singing, beatboxing, dancing and swirling, and Mayumana brings a performance that's as contemporary as video and as timeless as a heartbeat (one of the featured instruments). Two teams of performers face off on stage playing, challenging and ultimately coming together in a burst of music and dance born from both art and science.
Created in 2012 for the Jerusalem Festival of Light, "Currents" was inspired by Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison's early 20th century "battle of the currents" for dominance of either alternating current (Tesla's invention) or direct current (Edison's). While AC won the war, it takes both to power the world. "If you can find a way to combine forms of energy, styles, people, characters, everything," says Berman, "it creates harmonies. …Instead of working against each other, trying to work together. That's the idea."
"It's got drumming. It's got dance. It's got multimedia. It's got sort of pyrotechnics," says Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center. "A bit of 'Stomp,' a bit of Blue Man Group, it's a very young, hip show." Performers even come down from the stage to create music with the audience. "It's unique. It's not been here before. It's from Israel, a part of the world that we're always looking for exciting things from. … It just has everything."
"Currents" also has ties with the scientific community, Inkles realized. Tesla's story and his lab are part of Long Island's heritage. In a rare joining of exhibition and performance, the university invited members of Shoreham's Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe to the presentation. For an hour before and after Mayumana's performance and during intermission, in the lobby, the Science Center will invite the audience to try equipment and machines hinting at the scope and reach of Tesla, whose inventions are responsible for radio, Wi-Fi, robotics, neon lights, hydroelectricity and the modern power grid, to name a few.
Tesla Science Center's Debbi Scott Price, director of marketing and communications, says they'll display a Theremin player (a wireless musical instrument mimicked in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and '60s sci-fi films), a singing Tesla coil that creates music from voltage and high frequency, an augmented reality display and a Van de Graaff generator. "Did you ever see those giant discs that people put their hands on, and their hair stands on end? That's it," explains Price, laughingly. "We're going to have a Wimshurst machine," she adds, "that zaps out voltages of electricity. … And we do a human electricity chain so people can see the electricity passing through them."
Both Mayumana and the science exhibits are meant to inspire and enthuse. Energy links Tesla's story and "Currents," and it's infectious by design. "The main thing is joy for us. We want the audience to leave the theater uplifted, with a lot of energy," says Berman. "We do it through music, dancing and choreography. It's physical. It's moving, nonstop."
WHAT “Currents” by Mayumana
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. March 9, Staller Center, Stony Brook University
INFO $48; 631-632-2787, stallercenter.com