Niña Dance (2009)



music by Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin

poems in Spanish by Marjorie Agosín and Saúl Yurkievich

English translations by Cola Franzen & Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman

“bright Tex-Mex-inflected trumpet figures, tango rhythms and a Weillian darkness.. to frame a gripping cycle about the hundreds of young women who have disappeared (or been found murdered) in Juárez, Mexico, since 1993… haunting texts..”

–Allan Kozinn, New York Times (May 11, 2009)

Watch “I Have Wandered The Countryside”, from a performance of “Niña Dance” at The Kitchen:

Commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation, as part of the Osvaldo Golijov & Dawn Upshaw Professional Training Workshop.

NIÑA DANCE is a song cycle inspired by the unsolved murders & 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 1000 are still missing. Many were students, and most were maquiladora (duty-free and 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 is spread through other nations as well.

“Niña Dance” is a tribute and meditation to 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 classic opera recordings in Russian, I was compelled to set this song cycle in English, hoping that the words would reach a deeper impact with a New York audience.

CATEGORY chamber music with vocals, mixed ensemble,
INSTRUMENTATION World premiere instrumentation:Solo Vocal,


2 Percussionists: Marimba (5 octave), Vibraphone, Tam-tam, Bass Drum, Shaker, Caxixi, Cajon, Snare Drum, Suspended Cymbal, Tambourine, Castanets, Bottle, Air horn

Acoustic Guitar

Accordion (free-bass capable)

Famiola (6-string viola)


For future performances, instrumentation can be scaled down to that of Ljova and the Kontraband (famiola/accordion/bass/percussion) and solo vocalist, ideally with addition of solo trumpet.

DURATION approx. 19 minutes
WORLD PREMIERE May 9, 2009 at Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York NY
WORLD PREMIERE PERFORMERS Sofia Rei Koutsovitis, vocal; Alan Pierson, conductor; Nathan Botts, trumpet; Brandon Seabrook, guitar; Will Holshouser, accordion; Jared Soldiviero & John Ostrowski, percussion; Jeremy Flower, laptop; Ljova, famiola
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES 2011:as part of 21C Liederabend, at The Kitchen, New York2009:Preview performance: Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, New YorkPre-preview performance: Cornelia Street Cafe, New York (in a reduced version for Ljova and the Kontraband)
RECORDING Recorded for Carnegie Hall’s website — their archive now under renovation.
SCORE AVAILABILITY All arrangements are available for sale via PDF or mail delivery; arrangements for combinations not listed above may be commissioned on request. [contact for more info](Photo from the premiere courtesy of Pete Matthews /

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