Zydeco, Zare

Zydeco, Zare

Elisa Monte Dance performed Zydeco, Zare last week at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette, LA.

Choreographed by Elisa Monte with a musical score by Jonno Frishberg, this eclectic work will feature a live six-piece Zydeco band and the Elisa Monte Dance Company. Inspired by the style of folk music originating from African American and Creole descendants of slaves and freed slaves in Southern Louisiana in the late 1800’s, this innovative new work will incorporate the syncopated sound and movements that are found in Zydeco, along with Monte’s authentic choreography.

This project, which was commissioned by the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, will be part of PASA’s 2008/2009 season and debut its world premiere at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette, Louisiana in the Fall of 2008. The idea was formed from the desire to showcase the indigenous Creole culture and Zydeco music and to increase awareness of this unique aspect of Southwest Louisiana.

PASA Executive Director Jacqueline Lyle describes the project as a "platform for Zydeco that showcases Creole heritage as a thriving culture in quite literally a far-reaching way. We will literally export Zydeco music and dance to modern dance audiences around the world and across our country."

Zydeco is a derivative of Creole culture – a term referring to French-speaking African Americans - and is a cousin of Cajun music. According to Nicholas Spitzer, author of Zydeco and Mardi Gras: Creole Identity and Performance Genres in Rural French Louisiana, “Zydeco music today is the result of a 200 year old process of creolization between surviving African musical traditions… and the European peasant traditions of Cajun music found in and near the plantation regions of south central and western Louisiana.”. The two musical forms influenced and cross-pollinated each other, blending characteristics of each to produce the related, characteristic sounds of two cultures living side-by-side, but separated by racial cultural identities. The term “Zydeco” is said to derive from the regional French dialectal word for snap bean—les haricots—implying a snappy, stepped-up musical genre.

The Performing Arts Society of Acadiana hopes those pieces land in the far corners of the Earth. "Modern dance is a way to bring zydeco to new audiences, both in our community and outside of our region," said Lyle. "It's also a way to attract people who had never been to see modern dance.