What’s in a name? Shakespeare initially posed this rhetorical question in Romeo and Juliet and now, Spanish dance production What is My Name? intends to take it deeper.
The stage opens with two armchairs containing secret openings, two lamps floating in the air, one carpet converted into a mirror and two performers ready to discuss serious philosophy in this hypothetical living room.
What is My Name? is performed by production company DA.TE Danza from Granada, Spain. Founded in 1999 by artistic director and choreographer Omar Meza, they deliver contemporary dance performances that engage a child’s mind to think about the possibilities in life. This particular piece focuses on the message of your true self – no matter what labels are placed on you, your true essence is always there, and this will guide you toward choices that determine who you really are. The performers create a world that awakens the imagination of both adults and children and implants ideas around understanding one’s own identity. As the story deepens and the pace increases, the occasional words connect scenes and give a boost to poignant moments.
With such deep content, choreographer and artistic director Omar Meza is often asked whether children can really understand these concepts. His passionate response is, “Yes, we need to give children more credit. I’ve had 19 years’ experience working as a dance teacher and choreographer for children, and this has led me to understand a child’s capacity, and how tremendously interesting their point of view is. They are perceptive and they understand contemporary dance very well.”
The origin of the show provides further insight into the reason behind this concept, as Meza explains, “What is my name? is an openended question, which leads to many other questions, and provides extensive answers. The underlying message is that everything and everyone can become what we imagine. What is interesting is how children perceive identity with such purity.” For Meza, he answers this question somewhat simply. “For me to answer I would say, I do not care what you call yourself, I do not care about your culture, your background, your race or color; I care about you, because I want us to come together and be friends.”
Even though the topic for this performance seems somewhat profound and complex, Meza assures us that the search for your true name will be very entertaining. “In this story, everything is a game and the messages will be delivered through creative, contemporary dancing that the whole family will enjoy,” he explains.
Though it’s evident he is genuinely inspired by children, Meza doesn’t have any of his own. He admits this is a question he is often asked as he travels around the world. “Experience has led me to realize that, even though I don’t have children, I possess an inherent insight into the mind of a child and the concept of arts for children,” says Meza. “I don’t think not having children is an obstacle for me. I’ve been working for children of all ages for many years and I am fully aware of their capabilities.”
In addition to What is My Name?, the company has created 17 other shows, delivered 2,000 performances that have reached over 300,000 audience members. Don’t miss this chance to expose your children to an entertaining dance performance that will leave them thinking about who they really are.
May 25-27. RMB120-220. Experimental Theatre, Shanghai International Dance Center. See event listing.