It takes guts, some grit and a willingness to venture into unknown territories to investigate and to produce a genre-bending performance.
It takes an audience willing to open their eyes and ears to something unknown and react in an honest and pure fashion. This was the first performance collaboration between Miami’s two- year-old Nu Deco Ensemble and the thirteen-year-old, Brooklyn, N.Y.,-based Decadancetheater performing in the Arsht Center's Knight Concert Hall to an anticipatory and willing Miami audience.
A new creation, the show blended an all female hip hop ensemble with reimagined classical music to create a language in music and dance that crossed barriers, altered preconceived notions and ultimately, entertained. The music for the project was the well known and established Antonio Vivaldi’s, “Four Seasons,” but recreated by the indomitable Sam Hyken, co-founder of Nu Deco.
Thanks to the Arsht Center’s vice president of programming Liz Wallace, who envisioned the current collaboration, there was passion, commitment and elation in opening new territories with “The Vivaldi Project - '4' ”
The Nu Deco Ensemble, usually playing in Wynwood’s Light Box, played for the first time Friday night in the Knight Concert Hall. Conducted by the eloquent (and charming) co-founder Jacomo Bairos, the musicians are the best of the best and there is no realm where they are not at home.
Opening the program with J. S. Bach’s “Toccata y Fuga in Re Minor” as arranged by Hyken, the infamous organ piece was infused with bongos and Latin percussive rhythms. Bairos, who was the host for the evening, explained that it had a little “Miami mambo spice.”
Hyken’s arrangement of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” was a first opportunity to see the Decadance hip hoppers in a simplified rendition of the Firebird story, a battle of good versus evil. The dancers each had their specialty moves in the hip hop realm that often surfaced within the context of the suite. The hall was conducive for allowing the dance to surround the orchestra. Two levels of platforms in the back and a lower ramp in the front immersed the dance in the music.
Amidst much running and watching, the group of dancers showed power when they moved as a group toward the end of the piece. There were also moments of stillness that allowed the music to speak for itself. The “street look” was the choice for the dancers limited costuming throughout the evening. In this one, however, some red feathery shoulder pads dictated who was the Firebird."Nu Deco Suite #1 - The B Sides," a composition by Hyken, offered a wink to the 1970s, a haunting electric guitar played by Aaron Lebos, numerous odes and an obvious reference to pop star Prince. The piece was and has been an audience favorite.
The awaited piece of the evening was the Vivaldi. It was a collaboration in every sense of the word, sometimes showcasing the dance and often times, dancers would just sit without moving and listen to the music. The music flew in and out of the familiar "Four Seasons" as did the dancers on the stage.
There were moments that stood out: the duet between versatile Ann-Sylvia Clark and the amazing BGirl Shorty, seeing She Street glide across the floor with precision feet, the legato fluidity of Allauné Blegbo, the effusive Liliana Frias, and Randi “Rascal” Fleckenstine who stood out in everything. Each commercially known dancer was unique oftentimes having a super hero affect during solos in the various spotlights on the ramps.
A full work such as this requires much pacing and transitions that hip hop is not meant to do, or, at least not yet. There were segments that were not hip hop, but were almost modern dance, and the dancers seemed ill equipped for the style. A repetitive clump with arms outstretched became a questionable signature position. The dancers were always showcased best when they were in their own element: hip hop. When that happened, it was worth the wait. Perhaps it should have happened more often. The final head spin by BGirl was about as dynamic as hip hop can get and moved the audience to its feet.
This was a bold collaboration that showcased women in hip hop dancing with genre-bending classical music. Being a classicist at heart, traditional technique in dance will always resonate for me. Maybe it’s time to push the boundaries even more.