Updated: Feb 27
Only in Vegas...Theatre.
You may have seen the performers of MOLODI in shows like Stomp, The Lion King, and Hamilton but you will have to come to the indy Majestic Repertory Theatre on Main Street in Las Vegas to experience their newest percussive innovation PAATI. Like much of the local, independent arts scene, MOLODI is an ensemble of seasoned artists with international credits alongside emerging ones dedicated to taking their original work to the next level.
Founded in 2000 by Jason Nious, Antwan Davis, and Khalid Freeman, the company excels at inspiring audiences with rhythmic experiences including collegiate stepping, tap, gumboots, beatbox, poetry, and hip hop dance. For the past several years Nious and his team of multitalented artists have ushered "stepping and body percussion into the theatrical realm as a storytelling vehicle" both on the stage and in classrooms in Southern Nevada and across the United States as resident teaching artists for places like The Smith Center.
MOLODI's mission to revolutionize western theatrical storytelling with body percussion met with recent acclaim thanks to Nious' collaboration on The Royale by Marco Ramirez, produced by another innovative Las Vegas company The LAB LV. The story about an African American boxer who integrated the sport when he defeated the white heavywaight champion met with sold-out performances at The Playhouse in 2019. As critic Ralph Stalter, Jr described, incorporating body percussion elevated the artistry "to bring to life a high-energy pugilistic experience that literally puts the audience directly into the ring."
Their latest original work PAATI promises "to inspire a sense of unity among all people through rhythm, collaboration, and personal expression" when it opens on February 21st, 2020 at Majestic Repertory Theatre for a three-week run.
Described as "a heart-pumping, foot-stomping, hand clapping interactive story told through body percussion, poetry and dance about one woman’s search for the American dream in her African roots," PAATI tells the story of a woman "forced to unravel everything she’s ever been taught by her family, friends, society, even complete strangers" after a night at a party.
Nious explains that "African Americans have often been called the lost children. Slavery erased any link to understanding a lineage that is layered with royalty and death, wealth and eradication, celebration and devastation," and he has led his company around the globe to forge new links to the past while creating a better future. The journey began early in his career working with Step Afrika and met a milestone when the troupe toured to Ghana for the International Body Music Festival in 2018.
In keeping with the PAATI's message that we must "Find the courage...to write our own narrative," MOLODI promises an "invigorating physical theatre production" that "invites the audience to participate in the storytelling, the rhythms, and the set and costume design from the moment they walk into the theatre. They’ll join PAATI’s party of energizing beats, rhythmic movement, and poetic exploration in this celebration of discovery of voice, purpose, and freedom."
The show's message is timely for members of the region's cultural community. MOLODI's story is a familiar one to many artists often overlooked by promotional campaigns and policymakers with a mandate to attract tourists and investment to Las Vegas. For any independent arts organization to survive in our valley, it must contend with the erasure of our cultural legacy from the map either by implosion or undocumented history which creates a blind spot at the top and undermines the evidence of their impact on our community and economy.
When we say that our brand is "Only in Vegas," we must include local artists first and foremost among the ambassadors for our city. They are the one, unbroken link to our past that spends every day creating a new future for people from all walks of life. In many respects, MOLODI's story as a company reflects our own as "Vegas Culture" and we need to write our own narrative. This is why EatMoreArtVegas.com was founded and it is why the artists who walk among us must not only be cherished but invested in.
The story of the PAATI production begins with combining years of training and experience as an ensemble, hundreds of events for corporate business as the entertainment, thousands of miles traveled to innovate and promote, and many weeks in schools as a partner in education. The PAATI project would not have been possible without the support of other local, independent arts organizations like The Playhouse and Majestic Repertory, among others, who live their own version of this developmental history and sacrifice to keep the venues open so that the work can exist. Theirs is a gift that empowers our community at home and our image around the world. When you attend an independent production, invest in local artists, and champion their stories you become a part of the new narrative of who we are, where we come from, and where we intend to go as a people.