Who are you?
What do you want?
What makes you so special?
What is your definition of success?
Be prepared to confront these questions when you go see Bootstraps, a project by New York-based theatre group Loom Ensemble, coming to Dubai’s thejamjar from April 24 to 29.
Through song and dance routines that hark back generations, the cast, along with Dubai-based theatre enthusiasts, aim to take you on a spin around the world, exploring cultures and creations that we may have become disconnected from in the age of digital connectivity. The show centres on a person’s definition of success, and the balancing act we all must take on, between workplace and family, in order to feel truly complete.
Co-founder of the Ensemble Raphael Sacks says the idea for the show was born in Colorado last autumn, but Dubai is a great place to take the dialogue further. He explains: “What makes this opportunity so powerful and so unique, I think, is the cultural diversity of this ensemble. This community that has grown around the collaborative theatre making of this show. With the ensemble of 15 people we have more than 10 flags represented. And this can only happen in Dubai. We’ve been based in New York City since 2009 and yes, New York is a diverse place, but it’s not this diverse. And in some ways it’s so normalised in Dubai, that maybe Dubai residents forget what an amazing resource the cultural diversity our community is, and it’s just an honour to be able to draw on.”
Bootstraps is billed as a workshop where people can tap into their heritage and share a part of it with an audience.
“Theirs [Loom’s] is a physical theatre,” says performer Subrata Singh, adding that at the age of 44, while she is fond of the performing arts, doesn’t have the kind of energy Loom’s works usually demand. For this showcase, however, Singh’s doing all she can, from marketing to dancing on stage. She recalls how the actors were chosen in Dubai during one of her meets with the Loom’s leaders — she’s known them for about five years.
“As a part of the Loom Ensemble, I and the director, Neva [Cockrell], travel pretty much continuously throughout the year to do workshops, create performances and move on to the next place,” says Sacks, “But Dubai has been maybe a number one place that we’ve learnt to return to since 2013. This concept, Bootstraps, brings together the professional acting of a small core group with a big community theatre. The whole show is really based in workshops, where a much bigger group with 15 different actors from Dubai can participate even if they don’t have an acting background.”
Singh explains: “Raphael said, ‘Let me do it as a workshop, everyone is free to do the workshop, those who can continue with it will perform on stage.’ So, for example, we have one of the cast [members], she is elderly and she finds it difficult to bend her knees, because she’s got some [medical] problem... she’s not involved in the physical theatre, but she’s still doing part of it. So that’s how we realised there will be people who want to do this with us, but might not be able to pull along to that extent.”
So the project began to involve people in whatever profile they were comfortable in. The move has bred community ties. “Now every alternate day we have four to five hours’ long rehearsal, and even after that people sit and discuss their problems... we come up with ideas,” says Singh.
Creating the music was an interesting experience as all of the three musicians come from different backgrounds and nationalities, explains musician Mahesh Raghavan. “We were given themes to compose to and had a lot of creative freedom. A lot of the music was improvisational and created through jamming with each other, which brought out a unique mix of cultures and musical backgrounds.”
This iteration of Bootstraps is set in Dubai during a high school reunion. “The opening of the show begins with a montage of songs and dances that each of the workshop participants and ensemble members have brought in from their cultural upbringing, songs and dances from around the world, and it’s just an emotional, powerful thing for me to be a part of,” says Sacks.
It’s all about “broadening our definition of what success means.”
Don’t miss it!
Bootstraps is on between April 24 and 29 at thejamjar in Dubai. Tickets to the show, which runs from 8pm-11pm, are Dh75.