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Worth the Wait

June 14, 2022

Kiki Valera, Meklit Hadero, Dakota Camacho, Momma Nikki (Photo: Warren Woo)

In May of 2020, Meany Center was all set to present an exciting new project called MOVEMENT Live Spearheaded by Ethiopian American musician Meklit Hadero and co-commissioned by Meany Center, the project was part podcast, part live performance and dedicated to exploring the experience of migration from the point of view of local immigrant artists in each community the touring show visited, starting with Seattle.

Then the pandemic happened and all those well-laid plans were thrown up in the air.

Artists are nothing if not persistent, however — and innovative. For the past two years Meklit, her team and three Seattle-area artists — Kiki Valera (Cuba), Momma Nikki (Haiti/US) and Dakota Camacho (Guåhan) — continued to work together through virtual residencies. Meany Center provided recording equipment which Meklit’s team taught Kiki, Nikki and Dakota how to use to create effective radio-ready stories — all of which were published the summer of 2021 on PRX The World.

Then in April 2022, the director, artists and crew met in person for the first time in Seattle for a one-week residency hosted by Meany partner, On the Boards, followed by a shorter three-day residency at Washington Hall a few weeks later. It was during that time that the live show came together. After a two year wait, MOVEMENT Live had its world premiere in the Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater on May 7, 2022.

There were so many highlights of that evening — Kiki Valera’s virtuoso performance on guitar punctuated by riveting tales of growing up in Cuba, listening to American pop music on an illicit ham radio; Momma Nikki’s bittersweet account of their relationship with their Haitian-born father; Dakota Camacho’s visceral and harrowing depiction of the effects of U.S. colonization and the subsequent displacement of indigenous people in Guam. And through it all, Meklit’s music and her own story of migration wove the disparate parts into a whole.

The performance that night was meaningful to the people in the audience — many of whom saw themselves represented on stage — and many smiles and tears of appreciation were shed during and after the lively Q&A with the artists.

But the impact of Meany’s support of this project goes beyond that one night or this one city. Afterwards, Meklit commented, “MOVEMENT Live was a huge new experience for me. I had never written a script before, and certainly never brought a performance experience so massive to the stage. Having the space to experiment was essential to taking this leap as an artist. We were able to experiment with process, learn, make mistakes, grow, and ultimately, to understand the nature of this very new type of platform for migration stories. We plan to continue this blueprint across the country and world as we take the show to different communities.”