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Inspired Collaboration Meant to Be

Decadancetheater and Nu Deco Ensemble Unite To Re-Envision Vivaldi

Cameron Basden

Decadancetheatre 2. Photo by Daniel Pincus.


Decadancetheatre 2. Photo by Daniel Pincus.

Hip-hop and gender-bending classical music collided when Jennifer Weber, artistic director of Brooklyn’s’s Decadancetheater spoke with Sam Hyken, co-artistic director and co-founder of Miami’s own Nu Deco Ensemble. In a match made in heaven, the dynamic duo were quickly finishing each other’s sentences to culminate in the creation of “The Vivaldi Project “4” a powerful evening of dance and music that will be unveiled at the Arsht Center’s John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall on Friday, April 28.

Last year, Weber, known in Miami as choreographer of the “Hip-Hop Nutcracker” was having a casual conversation with Liz Wallace, vice president of programming at the Arsht Center. They were speaking of dream projects.

“One of my dreams had been to work on something with an orchestra and live classical music. Wallace said, you have to meet Sam Hyken and Nu Deco.” After a little description of how the orchestra is reaching into untapped territory with classical music, Weber knew that “these were my people!”

"I met with Sam and we clicked instantly. He comes from music, and I come from dance, but there is so much overlap, our creative processes were so similar,” says Weber.

For the up-coming collaboration, Hyken has re-imagined Vivaldi’s iconic “Four Seasons” in a forty-minute piece that includes the classic movements of the traditional Vivaldi score recomposed through Hyken’s musical genius and interpreted through the physicality of hip-hop by Weber. They have been working long distance between Brooklyn and Miami with many conversations. The week prior to the performance, they will come together for the first time, seeing the dance and hearing the music.

Hyken describes their process. “The concept was that we would initially keep it as close to the original as possible. And then as the piece evolved, it became more re-imagined and went through this total kaleidoscope to become a totally new creation.“

Hyken has added instruments, changed the tempo of a waltz, gone from major to minor, made many subtle changes so the music will sound familiar, but at the same time, will be totally different.

Hyken and Weber have had a true collaborative relationship, impacting each other every step of the way. Hyken says, “ We spent a lot of time conversing about the journey of the piece. She’s really had a lot of influence on what I’ve written and provided incredible musical ideas. We’re not just playing the music. We’re playing with the music!”

Weber says the same. “Sam has given me so many ideas for choreography. It was a collaboration in every sense of the word.”

Nu Deco Ensemble. Alex Markow Photography.


Nu Deco Ensemble. Alex Markow Photography.

Hip hop is a vocabulary that began on the streets. The now familiar energetic and specialized skill is becoming a performance art on the concert stage thanks to visionaries like Weber.

Weber explains, “Hip hop has always been an art form to communicate, as a language. We are all about the visualization of music and how that communicates through dance. How do we embody the sounds we hear and make it so you can see those sounds. Hip hop usually is in a four/four beat. The way Sam has recomposed this music some of it is in threes or fives. It has been challenging and so cool!”

Weber feels that she hears a story in all classical music, but it is not her goal for the audience to get a story from the Vivaldi piece.

“I want hip hop dance to be seen in a new way and to hear the classical music in a different way. I want the audience to see and FEEL the connection.” Weber says.

For the evening, Hyken’s partner, friend and Nu Deco co-artistic director and founder, Jacomo Bairos, will conduct “The Vivaldi Project ‘4’” along with joining forces for a reworking of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.” Hyken has also reimagined Bach’s “Toccata y Fuga” (one of the most famous in the organ repertoire) and composed “Nu Deco Suite #1 – The B Sides”to be included on the program.

As Weber says, “Real art rings true even if it’s hundreds of years old. It still feels fresh today. I want the audience to be inspired by the beautiful music that Sam has created and by these powerful female hip hop dancers. It’s not every day you get to see that on stage!”

In a weekend with numerous dance performances, New World School of the Arts showcased their final concert of the year with “Spring Dances.” The students of NW are a diverse mix with a wide range of strengths and abilities. The program offered some traditional works as well as new creations and numerous casts were given the opportunity to perform during the four performance run. While the commitment and energy of every student was obvious in each piece, Paul Taylor’s “Promethean Fire” was a standout with it’s intense moods, complex patterns and signature Taylor moves. The NW students are fortunate to be challenged with such a powerful mix of choreography.

The single performance of “The Vivaldi Project “4” be Friday, April 28, at 8 p.m. at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132 Tickets: $28 to $60 at For more info: (786) 468-2000.

6:30 p.m. Pre-Show Reception and Conversation for College Students – FREE!
The conversation will be tailored to college students and is free for UTIX members who have purchased a ticket to the performance. UTIX membership is free and offered to all full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate level college students. Registrants can purchase $20 tickets to select performances at the Center, including this one. Details are available at or by contacting the Arsht Center Box Office.

In addition, the Arsht Center, Nu Deco Ensemble and Decadancetheatre have collaborated to bring a series of educational opportunities to Miami-Dade County Public Schools, both on and off-site. Also, Jennifer Webber, the Artistic Director and two dancers from Decadancetheater will be leading a dance workshop at Arthur and Polly May’s Conservatory for the Arts in south Miami. Also, Sam Hyken will be leading a music improv lab with the Glades Middle School orchestra  on Thursday morning.

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