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 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 from, listen to the interviews to find out!