Mama Ensemble II: The Motherload

A Gathering of Mothers who are also Dancers and Dancemakers

Originally conceived by a half dozen pregnant dancers and a choreographic breastfeeding inquiry by Mareva Minerbi. Mama Ensemble brings mothers who are also dancers and dancemakers together for a 2nd gathering in Fringe 2019. Mama Ensemble II: The Motherload includes new choreographers collaborating with the ensemble; a jam with babies and toddlers onstage; and a trail of playdate/rehearsal meetings among dancers, dancemakers, and their children all over the city...are we edgy if we have been kicked out of multiple rehearsal venues? We think so and you will, too. Our process concludes with the knitting together of a community and the sharing of a public performance with you! Mama Ensemble arrived at a critical point for Honolulu’s dancers and dancemakers, when 13 dancers citywide found themselves simultaneously pregnant, and subsequently with babies...and now with toddlers...yet we have chosen to make this a string of moments of aesthetic innovation grounded in the experiences of a community of dancers who are also mothers. We envision this gathering as a starting point for future dance initiatives on motherhood. To realize our vision this Fringe, we have engaged a diverse set of partners, including mothers from the acrobatics and pole dancing community, modern and postmodern dance moms, parents from the Filipino dance community, street and urban dance specialists, an elite ballroom couple, and burlesque and cabaret oficionados, all reflecting on the mess, the overload, and the terrific moments that comprise motherhood. Please join us for our 2nd permutation in Mama Ensemble II: The Motherload.

Buy Tickets: Jan 10 @ 6pm

Venue: The ARTS at Marks Garage. 1159 Nu'uanu Ave

Date/Time: Jan 10 @ 6pm

Duration: 60mins

Genre: Various Dance Genres

Warnings: Nudity, Live Breastfeeding Onstage

More info: Mama Ensemble


Mama Ensemble is a group of mothers (and fathers), who are choreographers, dancers, and consultants, with founding members based in Honolulu, HI. Originally a couple pregnant modern dancers (Gwen Arbaugh and Laura Reichhardt) and a modern dance choreographer (Mareva Minerbi) interested in the subject matter of breastfeeding in public, the group fast attracted dancing mothers from diverse dance communities city-wide. This year’s members hail from Filipino dance companies, the aerial and pole dancing communities, the modern dance scene, Iona, the ballet world, the Cuban dance scene, the burlesque community, the contact and compositional improv community, the urban and street dance scene, and the ballroom elite. Mama Ensemble attracts choreographers with a vision and direction for composing works inspired by motherhood and parenting, while striving to create a community that is a mosaic of dancing mothers from various genres who make themselves available to perform in these works, and an adaptive dance-rehearsal-fused-with-play-date concept that somehow magically culminates in performance.

Fringe Questions

Mama Ensemble II: The Motherload

Fringe Questions by Carlynn Wolfe

Who brought all the Mamas together?

There were suddenly over a dozen dancers, from different dance genres and different dance communities all over Honolulu, pregnant in the same year (2015 into 2016) and I started to notice it and reach out to them. Then several of these dancer mamas were brought together while pregnant by Michelle Poppler for an artsy photo opportunity at the beach (thus, the pregnant beach photos used in promo last Fringe). And later, after many of us had given birth, Mareva Minerbi had an idea for a choreographic inquiry into breastfeeding, involving all the dancers who were now new moms, which culminated in her piece “Milk Diaries” and which ultimately spawned the whole “Mama Ensemble” show at Fringe 2017. Now we are excited to bring you “Mama Ensemble II: The Motherload” in the 2019 Fringe!

What keeps you going creatively when motherhood is so busy?

Motherhood has been a new source of creativity, I feel. We have 13 mothers (and 3 dads) involved in this year’s Fringe, so a bigger cast than last time...and even more mothers who had ideas for pieces about motherhood, but we had to put a cap on the show, because we only have 1hr to work hopefully we will do the show again, because there seems to be a lot of interest in the dance community and amongst dancers who are also moms in developing dance pieces about motherhood. Before becoming a mother, and before collaborating to develop this ensemble, I never would have imagined motherhood to be so artistically inspiring, but it seems to generate an endless font of material. And as to being busy, it is just part of motherhood, so pile it on! Thus, we are calling this “The Motherload.” We do, however, wish Fringe was not in January. It creates a not very family-friendly production schedule for our cast on top of the Oct-Dec holiday marathon...

Where do you create and rehearse?

For this show, we have created and rehearsed individually and also as groups. The groups meet with kids in tow, because for many of us this is our only option, and so we have created this playdate/rehearsal model, which is chaotic, but surprisingly productive. Some groups have met at my house or at the Barbara Smith Amphitheatre, 2 of the pieces have rehearsed at Aloha DanceSport (special thanks to Yanna Samlova for arranging for that), and our compositional improv group sometimes meets at a beach or playground, although we have been periodically ousted from numerous locations, including the UHM cheerleading studio, the ARTS at Mark’s, and we have been bumped from the schedule at Polearity. Does this make us edgy? Maybe dancing with kids makes people nervous. If so, be prepared to grip your seats, because there will be kids onstage in the show and they are - gasp! - unpredictable.

When did all the Mamas start working together?

I worked with most of the mamas in various dancing capacities before we all simultaneously became pregnant and started having babies. Honolulu has a small dance community and I do a lot of cross-pollinating in my own dancing. Some of the other dancers/mamas had danced together before as well. But I would say we are all a lot closer since doing the 1st and now 2nd Mama Ensemble shows. We are kind of like a baby hui for dancers who are also moms, except we also do choreography and perform.

Why Fringe?

Many of us did Fringe before having kids, so we are all mostly familiar with the Fringe format, especially the O‘ahu Fringe. Otherwise, dancing motherhood presents a lot of edgy and under-addressed content: pregnant pole dancing, queefing, single motherhood, our mom bodies, breastfeeding onstage, and a few #MeToo moments.

The ARTS at Marks Garage