So how did this unique brand of psychedelic dancing clowns come to be? Well… Fou Fou Ha! came from an Iraqi/Israeli woman’s vision to take her international dance training and add in elements of drag and satire. FFH! was at first a bunch of friends who enjoyed dressing up, creating dance numbers, drinking bottom-shelf Bourbon and playing as fools and eventually became a known look, a national brand and a recognizable part of the San Francisco performance culture. Fou is now becoming its own culture , and it all boils down to this Middle Eastern woman’s desire to make people laugh, and sometimes cry. The good kind of cry…mostly.
Fou Fou Ha! was created by Maya Culbertson-Lane aka Mamafou in 2001 as part of a puppet supper theater ensemble at the Cell Space in San Francisco. The directive from the show’s creator was to develop a Commedia dell’arte crew of “dancing girls that would come in here and there and do little dance numbers”. They started with masks, then scrapped the masks and now, instead, have a really big lashes.
When asked about the signature Fou look, Maya usually blames it on her desire to meld the aesthetics of Sideshow Bob , Divine and Rococo, all adorning the Bob Fosse meets slapstick choreography she creates. This unique choreographic style was inspired by choreographers like Pina Bausch, Ohad Naharin, Mark Morris, and Bob Fosse who perfected the marriage of chaos and order/ dance precision combined with the mess of absurdity which has become a signature style of Fou Fou Ha! As far as where the name Fou Fou Ha comes listen to the interviews to find out:
Another unique influence of Maya’s vision has been her development as a psychotherapist. Maya is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice and has always been interested in touching people’s hearts through her work as a therapist as well as director. Having created 5 stand-alone shows throughout the development as artistic director of FFH, each shows has held messages around finding self-love, connection and truth. Beyond the “irreverent clown” assumption that some may hold, what Fou truly captures is love and celebration of life, play and embracing the shadow.
In Jungian psychology, the concept of the shadow holds a two-fold function: it hides our shameful and inadequate parts of self (dark shadow) and also our most magnificent self expressions (golden shadow). We unconsciously banish these parts as we assimilate into a socialized child and start learning beliefs such as “Don’t be weird or else you won’t fit in (dark shadow) , and also don’t shine too bright because others will resent you (golden shadow).”
What Fou Fou Ha! aims at examining is owning these shadow bodies as well as all the other parts we yield in order to be a healthy human. By letting these parts out to act, play and be witnessed, perhaps they can be mastered rather than feared and shamed both internally and externally. We strive to own our imperfections and quirks, and we also strive to shine bright and celebrate our biggest self expressions!
Through the years within the development of the Fou dimension, we have welcomed new cast members, new squad activators and new angles to our shine. Each new formation and new generation of Fous has added a new flavor around the fashion styles, wigs designs and content development, creating this playful ensemble known as Fou Fou Ha! What was once a vision of Maya’s has become a shared vision of each squad leaders and ensemble members. This evolving culture is becoming a rich community and a whole new whirled.
Our mission is to invite transformation through play and also to grow as a community. To keep the beauty of creative collaboration and expression alive and supported. Fou Fou Ha! is an organization that strives to give opportunities for people to perform, create, get to know all the parts of themselves, and celebrate an artful life.
We at Fou Fou Ha! would like to take this moment to thank all those who have supported us through the years! It is through your support and love that we are able to do what we do and we are grateful for that!
Special thanks to: