New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

The music of Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams, all sung in the Amharic language, celebrates Ethiopia’s artistic and cultural heritage as a sovereign African nation. These were the songs creators Bibi and Bichu took with them as young boys on their first journey from Ethiopia to work in circuses around the world. Mixing the traditional and the contemporary, the music invites you to join the cast in celebrating their country's rich heritage. Listen here as you read more about the exuberant and powerful songs associated with each act of Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams.

Opening Dance and Hand-Vaulting—"Abebayehosh" by Teddy Afro
"Abebayehosh" by Teddy Afro is a modern take on a classical song. Traditionally, it is sung by young girls in the early morning of the New Year, caroling door-to-door in exchange for bread or fruit. Meaning "blessing," it bestows well-wishes on its listeners. 


Photo: Maike Schulz


Contortion—"Ambassal" by Haymanot Tesfa
This beloved song was inspired by one of the country's most ancient places—Ambassel, a mountain fortress once ruled by the Jantiraran aristocratic family. It is also the name of one of the Ethiopian musical scales, signifying how integral the relationship between land and music is to Ethiopia's national identity.

Photo: Andrey Petrov

Rolla Bolla—"Maringue Cha" by DJ Same
A song sung by a man to a woman who loves him, he's teasing her for feigning disinterest in him. The title "Maringe Cha" plays on the merengue, a dance exported to Ethiopia from the Dominican Republic. Despite the nod to another culture, the song itself is very much Ethiopian in style and is essentially about the dance of lovers as they tease and playfully rebuff each other.


Rolla Bolla
Photo: Maike Schulz

Cloth-Spinning—"Darign" by Jano Band
"Darign" translates to "permission" and denotes a ceremonial send-off for a bride. In this song, a woman sings about how she fell in love with a man for his eyes and now wants to marry him. In the show, four cloth-spinning women perform in response to the woman's story in a scene of playful, gossiping sisterhood. 

Photo: Andrey Petrov

Aerial Chain Act—"Dunya" by Anteneh Minalu
"Dunya" is a lament about time and destiny—a complaint that no matter how hard we work or what we do, time will catch up with us. "Dunya" means "earth" in Amharic, and also extends beyond its literal meaning to mean the universe and all of mankind. 


Aerial Chains
Photo: Maike Schulz


Icarian Games—"Hager Alegn" by Jano Band
Meaning "I have a country," this song celebrates Ethiopia as a land of origins—as the cradle of humanity, the source of the Blue Nile, the birthplace of coffee. It also calls for respect between cultures and for all of us around the world to embrace our unity, even as we acknowledge our differences. 


Icarian Games
Photo: Maike Schulz


Hula-Hoop—"Kal" by Jano Band
"Kal" is another song from Ethiopia's premier musical group—Jano Band, a leader in the creation of new Ethiopian music, and the first pioneer of Ethiopian rock. "Kal" means "vow" and the song describes a young woman's promise to herself to never be impressed with money or material things and to never forget that love is the most beautiful and precious gift of all. In the show, we also see this "vow" transform into an artist’s promise to herself to never lose touch with the sheer joy of performing.


Photo: Maike Schulz


Contortion Dance—"Misekir" by Fikreaddis Nekatibeb
"Misekir" in English means "witness," and this song tells the story of the triumph of love over money. "Misekir" accompanies the final contortion act, performed by four young women—a celebratory, life-affirming exploration of what is possible when individual limits are surpassed by people working and performing together.

Photo: Che Chorley


Rigging of the Chinese Poles—"Tikur Sew" by Teddy Afro
The lyrics asserts Ethiopia as an example for all African nations to follow, describing the country as the cradle of humanity to which the beginnings of history and culture can be traced, the only nation to be ruled by an African monarchy until 1975 and a country that has resisted all attempts to colonize it.

This scene harkens back to creators Bibi and Bichu's childhood. As young boys, Bibi and Bichu would wake at 3:00am and walk five miles to the Boye Dam. There, they would pluck large, heavy reeds to create safety mats to perform acrobatics after school. While they carried the reeds from the dam in the dark, they warded off their fears and exhaustion by singing their favorite chants and songs. When the troupe rigs the Chinese Poles for the show's final act, they act out the age-old work tradition of keeping spirits high by joining voices in song.

Chinese Pole and Finale—"Utopia" by Bang La Decks
This infectiously upbeat song is a modern electro dance-track that plays on a traditional Amharic saying, "Ethiopia hiwote," meaning "Ethiopia, my life," or, "My life is Ethiopia." The lyrics extend an invitation to dance in celebration of Ethiopia's "Utopia."


Chinese Pole
Photo: Che Chorley

Posted by Beth Henderson

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened in 1995 to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how teens ages 16-21 in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program here!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from the Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory blog. Today we're talking to third-year usher Yasmin Salih from Chelsea, Manhattan.

What was your favorite show at The New Victory?
Mother Africa: My Home was my favorite show because it was so much fun. The music made you want to dance, the energy kept you up and excited. On a personal level, Mother Africa made me proud of my own African roots. It was a bonus that a lot of the performers were Ethiopian, like me.
The show I'm most excited for this season is...
Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams! Like Mother Africa, I feel personally connected to it. I'm proud to see my culture being shown to others, especially since I’ve rarely seen it accurately represented in entertainment.
The thing I like most about being an usher is…
I love being exposed to theater. I've always considered myself an artist, but when I was younger I wanted nothing to do with the performing arts. Now, working as an usher, I get to see how theater works up close and personal. It's opened my eyes to what theater really is, and I'm happy to work with other ushers who have different experiences when it comes to the performing arts.
What was your favorite memory from working as an usher?
Whenever the fake snow would fall from the ceiling at the end of Mr. Poppers Penguins, I loved seeing the kids' reactions. They absolutely loved it!
My dream job would be…
An animator or video game designer. I grew up on cartoons and games, so I now want to create the things I dreamed of as a kid. I also want to show that even though the arts are extremely competitive, I can make it as long as I work hard and stay dedicated to my dreams.
When did your love of theater start?
My friend's parents are both actors. When she invited me to one of their performances, I saw the love they put into the show. I fell for their passion and creativity!
Who inspires you?
My aunt is the best, because she broke tradition. Instead of settling for a family, she lives her life on her own terms, and spends her time traveling the world. I want to spend my life adventuring, like she does. 
What was your favorite story as a kid?
My favorite book was Hugo because it was visually beautiful. I remember in 4th grade my teacher used to read it to us and she would tell us about how each drawing was made only with pencil. That fact amazed me as a little kid and I knew that I wanted to draw like that when I grew up. 
What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school was World History because I got to study different cultures and ways of life around the globe.
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not at work?
My favorite thing to do is walk around the city to discover new things or to draw!
What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
My favorite spot is the Lower East Side. A lot of my friends live around there, and it's close to my school, as well.
Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
The most challenging thing was adjusting to being a leader, especially since this was my first job and I'd never been one to step into a leadership role. Being an usher taught me about responsibility and how to mentor other ushers and guide patrons.
Describe your dream vacation.
My dream vacation is anywhere in nature. I find being outdoors very relaxing, especially since I live in the city and human-made parks are the closest thing we have to nature here.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory was when I got to run a booth with my friends and teachers in my elementary school's street fair. It was so exciting to have that kind of responsibility!

New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

Photo: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
Posted by Beth Henderson
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