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Dance NOW! Miami Prepares 'Psalms'

Unity, Peace And Joy The Message


Cameron Basden

Photos from rehearsal of

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Photos from rehearsal of "The Book of Psalms." Photos: Cameron Basden.

The creative duo, Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini, co-directors of DanceNOW! will present their newest collaborative Work, "The Book of Psalms," on Saturday, April 21.

In Contemporanea 2018, at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, they will be revealing a journey that speaks to the hopes, joys, loyalties, sorrows, doubts and aspirations of the human heart.

Rehearsing at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, I was able to watch a first run-through of the new piece. There were numerous firsts for the dancers; hearing the final music, fitting the choreography to a new sound, and finding counts so that everyone moved together. It was the first step of many next steps and rehearsals. Watching the artists with their senses piqued was an awe inspiring experience.

After the run-through, Baumgarten said to the dancers, “Just remember, the next three weeks will be crazy. Be kind to each other.” And then everyone broke for lunch. I began the interview with the duo who were already in deep conversation about changes, edits, motivation and music.

Becoming DanceNOW! Miami and a leader in the Miami arts community has been a twenty year journey that the couple has traversed to bring what was once a studio company to evolve to a well oiled and cohesive dance organization.

Baumgarten spoke of the early years. “What brought the company together was the synergy and the energy created by Diego and me when we met as collaborators, and the ease with which we could share an artistic voice. That energy brought together an incredible group of artists who wanted to join us on this journey. We didn’t have a clear path, we just knew that we were excited about creating art together.”

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Over time, they became a company that had more depth and more longevity in this community. They started presenting work on tour and exchanging with the general public. Experience helped them forge a more clear voice for themselves as choreographers, and a stronger identity as an organization.

“From the beginning,” Baumgarten continued, “we always invited additional voices into our group. We learned early on that variety makes a show. Our audiences needed to be surprised and entertained. We’ve now become a more established organization and we have a board that is concerned with who we are and how we grow.”

“I think, especially, in the past five years, our board has given us a significant push to create works thematically and production-wise that have more staying power. They encourage us to create works to reach new audiences and that the production values of the works resonate long after the curtain has closed.”

Salterini adds, “There is a reality that dance is ephemeral, so it’s hard to hold on to it. Oftentimes, it’s the context that the audience remembers. While we love to create what we call ’pure dance,’ we do understand there is a certain power in bringing other artists and visual stimulation to the audience that will leave an even stronger impression.”

Both Baumgarten and Salterini travel the world through their work. Intentional or not, the flavors of various cultures pervade their choreography and become what they refer to as “a huge melting pot of cultural identities.” This merging of identities is what continually excites and inspires them about residing in the eclectic and unique city of Miami as people and as choreographers.

The Aventura performance will carry the flavors and diversity that Baumgarten and Salterini have experienced in their travels and that Dance NOW! performances offer.

Back in the studio, Salterini described the performance in more detail.

“The first piece is created by Hannah called “Here On Earth” and is dedicated to all the victims of the shootings that are happening in schools.” After a big sigh, Salterini continued. “It ends as a comforting piece of understanding that we are here all together. It’s a dynamic piece for the full company and will be a really positive opening.”

The second piece is a post modern duet called "XY The Engine of Life," created by Salterini. He says it is abstract, with a story. The reconstruction of the 1977 solo, “Touch Me” choreographed by Gerald Arpino for the Joffrey Ballet accompanied by a crackling gospel score takes audiences on a spiritual venture. To close the diverse evening will be the world premier of the newest collaboration, “The Book of Psalms.”

Baumgarten explained, “In the past couple of years, we’ve been doing work that connected more to the Miami community. In this case, we wanted to connect more with the Jewish community and “The Book of Psalms” seemed a natural link for a modern dance piece. It’s not a story, it’s not a narrative, it’s a group of poems or songs, and they have meaning from the internal human spirit to external life. That’s very much what modern dance is about.”

“The effort that we made was to make sure that the message was a universal one and did not apply specifically to one group. We had scholars who helped us to understand the poems and we discovered that there is a message, a universal one that is underneath the religious part.” Salterini said. “We had a committee that guided us to find what resonated for us. Once we figured out where we wanted to go, we got the other collaborators involved. We had an idea based on the Rodin sculpture, The Hand of God, for a set that would come apart and go back together. It has been a process of about a year in the making.”

While the music for the choral psalms is usually very large, the two specifically asked composer, Delane Doyle to compose something very intimate. Exchanging stories and videos, they were seeking to create a personal journey of the human heart symbolizing the love, the struggle, and the human part that everyone can relate to.

Artistic creations using the psalms seems to be in the air. Lincoln Center in New York presented all 150 psalms in a huge choral work, Florida Atlantic University just finished another interpretations of the psalms, the Limón Dance Company revived their dance piece, “Psalm” and there are others. Perhaps our society is seeking a grounding universal message of hope, joy, sorrow and aspiration of the human soul.

On April 21, Dance NOW! will celebrate peace and joy, community, and the unity that can be found in joining together. And, all through dance.

Dance NOW! Miami in Contemporanea 2018 Featuring “The Book of Psalms”

Saturday, April 21 at 8:30 P. M.
Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St, Aventura, FL 33180
Tickets $35 General, $15 Students at the door
Available at: tinyurl.com/Contemporanea2018
Box office 877-311-7469

DanceNowMiami.org 305-975-8489

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