About the Work

The May 9, 2009 performance at Carnegie Hall marked the work’s World Premiere.

Notes on the Work

Niña Dance is a song cycle inspired by the unsolved murders and disappearances of women and young girls in the city of Juárez, Mexico, situated just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. Since 1993, over 600 bodies have been discovered, and over 1,000 are still missing. Many were students, and most were maquiladora (duty-free or tariff-free factory) workers. Few arrests have been made, and the overwhelming majority of the cases remain unsolved. Pink crosses dot the streets of Juárez to remember the lost. While the murders (sometimes referred to as femicides) are a particularly sensitive subject in Mexico, the murder of innocent women occurs throughout other nations around the world.

Niña Dance is a tribute to and meditation on the memory of the mothers and daughters who have disappeared without a trace, and a protest to all for whom their mother’s love was never fully understood.

As the son of two generations of translators (both my mother and her father translated centuries of German poetry into Russian), and having grown up listening to classical opera recordings in Russian, I was compelled to set this song cycle in English, hoping that the words would make a deeper impact on a New York audience.

Many thanks to Marjorie Agosín and Saúl Yurkievich for their poetry, and to Cola Franzen and Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman for their equally vivid translations.

—Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin 

About the Composer

Ljova was born in Moscow in 1978 and moved to New York with his parents, composer Alexander Zhurbin and writer Irena Ginzburg, in 1990. He divides his time between performing as a violist in diverse groups ranging from his own Ljova and the Kontraband, to string quartets, jazz combos and Gypsy bands; studying and arranging music for Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet, Jay-Z, and others; and composing original music for film, TV, dance, and the concert stage.

Ljova is the author of more than 70 compositions for classical, jazz, and folk ensembles, as well as scores for four feature films and more than a dozen short films. He is co-founder of Mediant Music, a new company specializing in music for advertising and media. In 2005, Ljova was one of six composers invited to participate in the Sundance Institute's Film Composers Lab. His music has been licensed by the HBO, PBS, BBC, CNBC, and NHK networks, as well as by many other independent projects. In 2007, Ljova worked as assistant to composer Osvaldo Golijov on his score to Francis Ford Coppola's film Youth Without Youth, to which Ljova also contributed an original track, "Middle Village." In 2008, Ljova was guest faculty at The Banff Centre in Canada, focusing equally on composition, arranging, and viola performance. Presently, he serves as Musical Director for Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company.

With his main performing ensemble, Ljova and the Kontraband, Ljova has appeared at the Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music (as part of the Sundance Film Festival), New York's Museum of Modern Art, and other venues. The ensemble released its debut album, Mnemosyne, in 2008 and is the featured ensemble on Cupcake, a short film which debuted at Tribeca Film Festival and continues to travel the festival circuit. Kontraband is also featured on the soundtrack to the upcoming film Serpent's Breath.

Ljova is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he was a pupil of Samuel Rhodes (violist of the Juilliard String Quartet). He has won numerous prizes as a composer and appeared several times as soloist with orchestras, including as a winner of the Menschenkinder-Preis from RTL TV in Germany. Ljova lives in New York City with his wife, vocalist and attorney Inna Barmash, and their son, Benjamin.

Bio current as of April 2010