Video Premiere: Mother Sparrow by Sonya Belaya and Eryka Dellenbach

Today’s video premiere is a film by composer-performer Sonya Belaya and choreographer/director Eryka Dellenbach entitled Mother Sparrow.

The music featured in the film is from Belaya’s album Songs My Mother Taught Me (2019). The album is the first release of Belaya’s “Dacha” project (a word meaning “summer cottage” in Russian), which was born out of a necessity to find a sense of home and belonging when her mother went missing in 2014.

Here’s what Sonya and Eryka had to say about Mother Sparrow:

Mother Sparrow is a site-specific performance film by Eryka Dellenbach interpreting Sonya Belaya’s song about her experience of unresolved loss following her mother’s disappearance in 2014. Shot on the banks of Moodna Creek—a tributary of the Hudson River designated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the film evokes the tensions between family and chosen family, prophecy and hallucination, agency and observance, and cycles of haunting and return. 16mm celluloid film fragments shot and hand-processed over the course of a year at the site by Dellenbach are woven throughout, hinting at latent circumstances. Created with an all-women cast and crew, the film features camera work by Carmen Hilbert, and performance by K.J. Holmes, Nola Sporn Smith, and Dellenbach.

In addition to Mother Sparrow, you can check out some of Sonya and Eryka’s other projects here:

About Sonya Belaya

Sonya Belaya is a Russian-American pianist, singer, composer, and improviser, who divides her time between Michigan and New York. Committed to multiplicity, she is a diverse music-maker invested in vulnerable art and the development of strong, personal collaborations. Her work centers on the integration of women’s trauma as musical narrative, with a focus on storytelling as a symbol of powerful vulnerability. Sonya has performed as a pianist and singer with members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Music Detroit, Wild Up, Michigan Opera Theatre, Russian Renaissance, and Bang on a Can All-Stars. Sonya has been a participant in many notable music festivals, including Bang on Can Summer Festival and International Workshop for Jazz & Creative Music at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity. Currently, Sonya works as a musician at Mark Morris Dance Center, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. She is also working with storyteller and producer Patricia Wheeler (The Moth RadioHour, Moth StorySlam) to develop a storytelling and music series entitled “Songs & Stories”, which partners Detroit storytellers with musicians and composers based on curated themes to create fluid, seamless narrative in a collaborative process.

About Eryka Dellenbach

Coming of age queer in suburban Illinois surrounded by forest preserves with a hunter-father, Eryka Dellenbach cultivated the ability to disappear. Solitary hours spent in complete stillness observing the movements and behavior of animals set her on an intuitive path towards working with the body and its systems. Her work between performance and film sensually mines psychophysical thresholds, power, women’s relationships and the fluctuating contours of consent. Using choreography and creating challenging site-specific gestures, she makes independent films where sound and image buttress and undermine one another.

Dellenbach earned a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a focus on cross-cultural, psychoanalytic-anthropology and was introduced to the moving image by Deborah Stratman via 16mm film. She went on to earn a master’s in Film from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has worked with and performed in the works of an eclectic variety of dance/performance artists including Atsushi Takenouchi, Tino Sehgal, Blair Thomas Puppet Theatre, Éva Mag and Tori Wränes. Eryka has presented her work at the Green River Cemetery, Movement Research at the Judson Memorial Church, Cucalorus Festival, Virginia Commonwealth University, Intuit Outsider Art Museum, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Mana Contemporary, False Flag, Links Hall, No Nation Gallery, the Shiryaevo Bienalle of Contemporary Art in Russia and elsewhere. She works as a freelance filmmaker, performer, contracted laborer and an instructor of celluloid filmmaking at MONO NO AWARE in Brooklyn.