There is the momentary satisfaction of seeing So You Think You Can Dance, competition dance, the “new” modern look and flashy choreography that is meant to catch your attention. After viewing these dance events, one is impressed, but is soon forgotten because there is little substance, there is so much of it out there and it all starts looking the same. It doesn’t touch your soul. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is just one voice of dance. In the Friday evening performance of DanceNow! Miami at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, audiences were exposed to dance that was executed by well trained, beautiful dancers, that carried a history and paid homage to masters in their field. The performance also contained new work that pushed the envelope and was captivating. To be entertained, educated, inspired and come away with thought provoking ideas is what a performance should be, any performance.
Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the José Limón Company, former Limón dancer, Daniel Lewis, compiled a series of three works arranged and tied together to homage this pioneer of contemporary dance. Limón’s work is different from work of today, especially in the contemporary format. It includes vocabulary with angles, intricate footwork, matching body positions and petite allegro (little jumps) where you can actually see if a mistake is made. In many present creations, one never knows if a mistake is made and perhaps it doesn’t really matter.
Limón’s work takes commitment from the artists and many rehearsal hours to execute the technical aspects. It also takes artistry and maturity to make it look effortless. DanceNow! offered a wonderful performance that will get even stronger as they perform it more.
Amy Deer and Luke Stockton swept the stage in a joyous excerpt from A Choreographic Offering that included paraphrases and motifs from numerous Limón works. Jenny Hagarty and Anthony Velazquez carried a lovely intensity and focus in There is a Time. A magical, serene moment was when the couple was encircled by the four other dancers with their arms extended in a supportive embrace. With the joining of Allyn Ginns and Isvel Bello the group frolicked through the Beethoven Sextet in a challenging segment of unison, couples, formations and intricacy. With a salute of honor and a bow of respect to each other, the dancers romped until a single empty light in the middle of the stage paid homage to the great master, Jose Limón.
Carolyn Dorfman joined DNM with her dancers, Jacqueline Dumas Albert and Louie Marin presenting Keystone, a three part duet of weight exchange and balance, unending physical contact and athleticism. A relationship based on trust and confidence is knocked off kilter to become a question of existence. We see trouble in their paradise only to quickly realize that this is just a journey in the path of all relationships, and it is resolved. Dorfman has a unique way of telling an understandable physical and moving story. Seeing Dorfman’s duet was an eye-opening prerequisite to her movement and ability to execute narrative in the following piece entitled Odisea.
The DNM dancers excelled in chronicling the physical and emotional journey of the Jews who fled Recife, Brazil in 1654 to ultimately land in New York at what is now the South Street Seaport. Having done the piece numerous times, there was an extreme range in movement quality, emotion and intimacy that has developed. We were compelled to join their struggle. The dancers had a comfort and freedom in the expansive twists and turns, desires and questions that Odisea necessitates which permeated their nuanced and passionate journey. Allyn Ginns and Amy Deer carried the weight of generations in their soulful interpretations.
After intermission, we were taken into a dreamworld with co-artistic director, Diego Salterini’s new work entitled Sogni with a tag line The things my dreams are made of. The colorless flesh body fitting costumes and effective lighting created a magical illusion as the piece began with a clump of individuals walking in slow motion facing away from us. Dreams are like that: a little surreal, time is random and confusion may be rampant. Salterini got this across in beautiful and unstructured structure in the first movement.
Valesquez continued the personalized journey in a sensual solo with a pace that was almost like moving through molasses as he traveled up and down a diagonal. How often have we screamed with no sound, run without arriving, been lost or late? Color and humor added a whimsical touch with huge wigs, lots of beads, hats, skirts and shiny leggings. Was it really humor or is that exactly what happens in a dream? The chaos of things that don’t make sense, the passage of the random person out of no where, the distorted sense of time. Salterini hit the nail on the head. One audience member who had not read the program notes said “It is just like a dream!” That’s always a good sign.
The evening concluded with co-artistic director, Hannah Baumgarten’s reworking of her piece Court Dance, originally created in response to the year 2000 election. With the present political conversation and tense atmosphere, Baumgarten felt it an appropriate and important time to bring Court Dances back. The tone is set with two dancers in silhouette ready to embark in confrontation. The spread fingers said it all on a body rocking back and forth ready for a fight. Slick black androgynous suits and faceless white masks used harsh, abrupt movements against a percussive score to keep a mood of tenseness and volatility. There was anger and discourse. One section changed to unison in a puppet-like sequence before breaking out into whirling circles of conflict and aggression. A slicing, surprise ending catches us off guard and out of breath.
Kudos to Baumgarten and Salterini for taking the risk to bring contemporary masterworks to Miami audiences while they continue to offer their own choreographic voices. Kudos to the dancers for the growing sophistication, range and artistry in bringing these works to fruition. As Baumgarten elegantly put it, the responsibility to educate various communities, entertain the public and honor the tradition that we have been so fortunate to be a part of, is one that is not taken lightly. Support this company, see this company, connect with this company and most of all, enjoy this company.
Saturday, March 26, 8:30 p.m.,
Little Haiti Cultural Complex Theater,
212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami.
- $35 General.
- $15 Students (only at the door).
Friday, April 7 at 8:30 p.m.,
In collaboration with the Miami Dade County Auditorium, Black Box Theater,
2901 W. Flagler St., Miami.
- $35 General.
- $15 Students (only at the door).
For more information, call 305-547-5414, dancenowmiami.org