The world has changed quite a bit since the uprising and violent protests of June 28, 1969, now remembered as the Stonewall Riots. Pioneer Winter and Jared Sharon have produced a performance piece titled 42: A Stonewall Prospective that features live contemporary dance, film, and large scale props in a multidisciplinary performance to recall the events leading to the Stonewall riots. The Bass Museum of Art will host the event, which includes three live dance sections ranging from dark to humorous. The event also features an original film that was shot at the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach. This special performance is a one-time event. The creators say, “While Stonewall’s 42nd anniversary is not a milestone, this showing finds its niche in the portability of the messages and significance within the current social climate.” Here we asked Dancer/choreographer Pioneer Winter to talk about this special evening.
How did the project 42:A Stonewall Prospective come about?
Initial support for 42: A Stonewall Prospective was acquired through the Miami Beach Arts Gala where I presented a duet featuring myself another dancer. Since I am an individual artist and not yet a non-profit, I hadn't planned on applying for the funding that had been raised during that Gala, but the MBAT encouraged me to apply. I was then able to write my grant and use them as a fiscal sponsor.
At first, I thought an overall composite look at gay-themes, focusing on key aspects of the 'grind' of gay ascension, would make for an informative evening. I had in mind to touch on a lot of issues, with the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall uprising as the glue that held them together. MBAT's Harvey Burstein and my partner Jared Sharon, with whom I'm collaborating in the sculptural and visual arts components, encouraged me to narrow my sights to something time and funding appropriate.
So what we'll be presenting is a dance performance that focuses on the themes that come from Stonewall--we'll touch on motifs of struggle and censorship, sexual deviance, non-conformity, and hope.
Describe the performance at the Bass Museum.
The audience will enter the Bass and immediately be able to help themselves to refreshments sponsored and provided by 42Below vodka. The performance will begin and they will be allowed to enter the gallery, where they will see three live dance sections and an original dance film. The evening will range from a male solo atop a melting twin bed with music by The Beatles to an a cappella tap dance within a bathroom stall to a beautiful short film that comments on social norms and non-conformity.
Will this be the only performance?
Yes. We'll be having a one-night stand at the Bass Museum of Art on Tuesday, June 28 at 8 p.m. It's free admission and open to the community--RSVP is welcome to ensure entrance, but not required.
Why was the Bass Museum chosen as a location?
As I do with most things, I cold-called and spoke to Denise Wolpert, who's been wonderful to work with. We were on a quick approaching deadline because the Arts Gala grant committee required a proposal that included our venue. Originally, I was brainstorming with MBAT (we had a few options around Miami Beach), and I really thought the Bass Museum would be beautiful, not only as a socially and politically neutral location but also artistically rich. The ambiance and structure of the Museum itself really adds to the viewing experience of the audience. We will be in the Sol M. Taplin Gallery on the first floor, which now houses Dutch and Flemish works. In creating 42: A Stonewall Prospective, we have done our best to integrate this atmosphere with the contemporary dance.
How many dancers are in your piece? (How were they chosen?)
Well, there are 11 dancers in the live performance (including myself) and there were 15 dancers involved in the film we shot at the Ancient Spanish Monastery, which will also be premiered on the night of our show. Only once have I held open auditions for dancers, and that was when I presented a piece about stigma with HIV+ and HIV advocate artists last June. Since then, I have drawn from the dance community by contacting old friends (three high school friends of mine are working with me in 42); I am also fortunate to work for Ballet Etoile, whose director Tomas Mazuch gives me support through sharing his dancers. As an aside, I really do respect that in a choreographer. You have to be able to share resources--human resources--with the artistic community and know that it does not diminish your own work. Sometimes I get the sense that dancers are monopolized. In a city like Miami, where full-time dance jobs are hard to come by, artists should be free to grow and work, as long as they remain responsible to their commitments. Anyway, the other dancers in the piece come from my previous works, including dancers that I've worked with in Phallussy, which I premiered at the Arsht Center in March.
Describe the growth of the piece from concept to performance. (Jared explains through visual arts standpoint.)
In the visual arts the process of creating develops habitually in a linear or circular fashion, though contemporary art lends itself to certain fluidity in development, as a visual artist concept to execution is generally resolute throughout from the context of the individual. As a sculptor and installation artist this is no less the case, but in collaboration particularly with a performance artist, this modus operandi was greatly tempered in producing 42. Cognizant of time as an underlying theme, the play on the title was recurrent and assisted in engineering the structure and schema of the entirety of the performance. The spaces in kind also lend to the adaptability of the aesthetic. We never attempted to approach the theme with sole regard to time retrospectively; it elaborates on the struggles throughout, and in is many ways anachronistic. With cognizance of the physicality of the event and the gay human condition there is an attempt at inquiry in our advancement and scrutiny prospectively.
What was your inspiration for this piece?
Whoever the hell realized enough was enough on June 28, 1969...and whose first response was to throw something.
What inspires you as a performer?
Argh. This is really going to sound cliché. Audience reaction is why I perform, really. A lot of artists say they perform for themselves or their own self-actualization; I don't. For as long as I've been dancing, it's the audience's energy that inspires me the most.
Is there a message in this piece? (Both Pioneer and Jared answer)
Well, the 42 performance has been created by artists who were not around (some of them were even unaware of the uprising when we began rehearsing) for the riots of 1969 that sparked the formation of modern gay civil rights. The dancers in the ensemble are made up of dancers who all believe in equality and civil freedom. They are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight. I really do believe that a central component to the success of any struggle is for it to be fought by those who don't need to be fighting. Activism for the rights of others. We are learning, as is our cast members, as will the audience. We aren't looking to teach, though--only hint at topics that might need a little further scrutiny. Taking it in its totality one might gather a comprehensive resonance of criticism, as much of the piece from performance to visuals, is ominous in tone; it’s through self-awareness and examination that the marginalized evolve. This celebrates diversity, and canonizes a specific milestone.
I understand that there are three dance sections in the performance. Do these pieces stand on their own or are they connected?
The first and second sections are somewhat related because they both deal with suppression. A recent casting change has added another layer that addresses the concept of hypocrisy. The final dance section represents hope, the will to fight, and how we all experience the same event differently. What I've noticed most in learning about Stonewall is that nobody agrees on everything. That's something, as an artist, I've come to terms with.
There is also an original film. Who was responsible for the film and explain its connection to the piece? Is there a title?
Multidisciplinary performance--utilizing film, visual art, dance, theater, spoken word, and music in a cohesive model--is uniquely absorbed by the audience. It removes barriers by allowing the audience to glean a sense of artistic fulfillment, no matter the combination of mediums. Once again, I cold-called and spoke to the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach. We requested two in-kind days for film production. After securing that, Facebook messages went out to the dancers. An interesting fact about the film: all the dancing in the film except for one pas de deux was choreographed by me and learned by the dancers on the spot to save time (and headaches of managing to get so many artists together to rehearse at the same time). Miami Dade College professor Claudio Marcotulli--a truly great person with whom to be working, shot the film. The film's connection to the rest of 42 is a break in the live performance to provide a time for reflection on topics of individuality, commonality, expression, and ritual. The film, while it can stand alone, is a section of 42: A Stonewall Prospective and does not have its own title. In line with the rest of the piece, it conveys homage to progression in the face of collective stagnation.
What does Stonewall mean to you?
Stonewall is where the impetus for change began. That night was not the first exercise of fighting for rights in queer history, but it's a marker. I think even more important than the riots were the resulting mobilization of gays in America and the campaigns for continued change. The riots could have been it. Instead, it encouraged a new era of social relevance.
As an artist do you feel the need to send a message to audiences? Is the message as important to you as entertaining the audience?
Entertainment is always the foremost thought in a performer's mind. While I love to create and promote the arts for nothing more than their inherent aesthetic, the general public remains unaware of issues influencing our lives and the lives of others. Through my background in public health, I've noticed how combined experiences strengthen the work. My work in dance and the arts is based on my belief that they can be combined with contemporary themes of social activism to create a more dynamic instrument of change. Dance is my first love. The awareness is just a catalyst. Or you could say that the arts are the catalyst. Either way, one shouldn't live without the other.
42: A Stonewall Prospective will be performed on June 28 at 8 p.m. at the Bass Museum of Art. This is a free event and is open to the public. The performance contains partial nudity. The Bass Museum of Art is located at 2100 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.
Photography by 360 Image Design