“We can’t wait,” Dance Now! Miami co-directors Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini say about returning to a stage after a COVID year that made performance mostly a virtual affair for the past year.
The company presents its "Masterpiece In Motion" series on Saturday, April 3 at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.
Baumgarten and Salterini aren't taking it lightly, though. In partnership with the Aventura Center, they say they are doing everything possible, following every protocol and rule to ensure a safe performance.
“It is our job to create a safe environment and to show our audience that this performance is a very safe and inspiring place to be.” Salterini says.
The repertory program is highlighted by the DNM premier of José Limón’s masterwork, “La Malinche” staged by Limón authority and protegé, Daniel Lewis.
In addition, Baumgarten’s iconic solo “Unburden,” Salterini's contemporary ballet duet “Mitosis” and the company’s COVID-themed work “This Moment, Here,” performed for the first time in front of a live audience, will offer a full palette of live, passionately charged dance. Lewis has also re-choreographed a special work entitled, “No Strings in the Cloud.”
Presented in collaboration with the José Limón Dance Foundation and in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Limón Dance Company, “La Malinche” continues the relationship of DNM with the Limón works as reconstructed or staged by their friend and colleague, Lewis, the Founding Dean of the Dance Department of New World School of the Arts, was a dancer, then served as director, of the Limón Dance Company following Limón’s death.
“We were in Mexico City with Danny (Lewis) in the square where 'La Malinche' basically happened and it put a little bug in our ear to do the ballet,” Salterini says. “Danny has given us more trust with the Limón works over the years, and he thought that this was a perfect time.”
“La Malinche” is told in a 'story within a story' format with La Malinche, the woman, portrayed by Allyn Ginns Ayers, Anthony Velazquez as El Indio and Matthew Heufner as El Conquistador.
The trio of dancers bound merrily onto the stage as traveling troubadours in an almost staccato fashion before transitioning to the emotional tale of treachery, love and conquest. Limón was known for his narrative through dance and "Malinche" was the first piece choreographed for his company in 1947. It set the stage for future choreographic stories such as “The Moor's Pavane” and “The Traitor.”
“Malinche’ is based on the real life tale of the Nahua woman who was an indispensable interpreter, advisor and intermediary for the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. She became a larger than life, controversial figure who played a key role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. She was initially known to be a traitor but legend has it that she is now considered a symbolic mother figure of the new Mexican people. Of Mexican descent, Limón’s ability to demonstrate emotion through natural movement is clearly seen here, as the legendary tale unfolds through movement.
A little fun fact about “La Malinche” is that Limón passed the role of El Indio, or indigenous person, to Lewis, who is now passing the role on to Anthony Velazquez. As dance knowledge is best passed on person to person, this is truly second generation from the source.
Transitioning from story-telling, “Unburden” performed by powerhouse Renee Roberts speaks to the despair, the intensity, and the need for light in our present world. Autobiographically created by Baumgarten, it references the now, as we are transitioning from a year that encompassed so many challenges and emotions into a hopeful year for the future.
Baumgarten says, “There’s got to be grit, intensity and vulnerability. Renee has taken her own journey, that is completely different from my own journey. We all have these moments that are shackling us, that are blocking us, that are pulling us in different directions, not allowing us to accept certain circumstances, and many times, we just have to shed them, to unburden them.”
Mitosis is the process by which one cell becomes two identical cells. In the duet, Salterini has created a liquid and elegant pas performed by Isabelle Luu Li Haas and David Harris. The couple seamlessly evolve through twists and turns in mesmerizing fluidity.
“I imagine this energy that is trying to pull apart to become two unique identities. In the beautiful new translucent costumes created by Haydee Morales, it is hard to tell that there are two people when the dancers are together.” says Salterini.
“This Moment, Here” was created in the height of the pandemic and was initially live-streamed from the outdoor North Beach Bandshell. The full company creation reflects the episodic period of the quarantine, how it started and what transpired. Reflective of the quarantine, it also presented challenges in the choreographic process itself. The needs of the dancers came first during the creation; dancers could only work with certain other dancers or had to be alone, and rehearsals were isolated. COVID postponed the initial performance and the quarantine necessitated certain staging requirements.
Now, being performed on Aventura’s large stage and indoors, the piece has evolved and video has been added.
“We really wanted to add another layer to enhance the understanding of the piece,” Salterini says.
Baumgarten adds, “ I think the video reiterates the context. It will continue to exist as a stand alone work even when this time is gone.”
While it has been a very challenging year, dance has been a resilient art form. New skills have been built, relationships have been formed and time has been consciously allocated. But everyone agrees that live dance will be welcome.
Dance NOW! Miami Program II featuring José Limón's "La Malinche," Saturday, April 3, 2021 at 8:30 p.m., Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th Street, Aventura, FL, 33180. Tickets $45 for all seats, limited capacity due to COVID-19 with safety protocols, available in groups of two or four only, masks required. Info and tickets at www.dancenowmiami.org/events/program2, and at www.AventuraCenter.org or by phone at (877) 311-7469. Addition information at (305) 975-8489 or email@example.com.