Dance NOW! Miami's 'POP': Contemporary Dance with Drama and Beauty

Dance NOW! Miami in


Dance NOW! Miami in "Tethered" choreographed by Hannah Baumgarten featuring, from left, Natalia Uribe Flores, Austin Duclos, Rae Wilcoxson, and David Jewett. (Photo by Simon Soong)

Cameron Basden, Dance Writer

Dance NOW! Miami culminates its season of dance with Program III, “POP” at the Broward Center for Performing Arts on Friday, May 17 and Aventura Arts Center on Saturday, May 18.

With “POP,” the company under the artistic direction of Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini, takes audiences on a spirited adventure that speaks to multiple generations, piques the emotions and revels in the sheer beauty of dance.

Dance NOW! Miami in Diego Salterini's journey through the 80s,


Dance NOW! Miami in Diego Salterini's journey through the 80s, "POP." From left, Jenny Hegarty and Dariel Milan. (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

The May performances include Baumgarten’s classic revival, “Tethered” and Daniel Lewis’s re-staging of the emotional yet quirky “Open Book” as well as feature the world premiere of the musical and dance journey, “POP” choreographed by Salterini.

Salterini was nostalgic as he spoke about the inspiration and creation of “POP.”

“As contemporary choreographers, we’re always looking for beautiful, magical music. But in reality, all my memories are from popular music. I had been flirting with this idea for a long time. My memories from Madonna, where I was, what I was doing are so clear. Prince, Billy Idol - all these artists were very much a part of my youth.”

Salterini continues with a story about being in Rio De Janeiro, driving with a much younger couple and the pop band, Tears For Fears came on the radio.

“We were all coming from different worlds, different parts of the world, different ages and yet we were still bopping to the same music,” he says. “We all had memories from the same music. This music is truly a part of the fabric of our lives.”

Salterini grew up in Italy in the world of television and commercial work and many times '80s popular music is associated with more commercial type atmospheres. He feels that with the right frame of my mind, the music can be associated with concert dance.

And that’s what “POP” does.

Julia Faris, dancer and rehearsal director, is dancing in all three pieces on the program. She says that the music for “POP” doesn't feel unfamiliar at all, even though the dancers are from a very different generation.

Luke Stockton in Dance NOW! Miami's


Luke Stockton in Dance NOW! Miami's "POP." (Photo by Jenny Abreu)

In “POP” Salterini has worked with long time DNM music collaborator, composer Davidson Jaconello, to reimagine the iconic songs.

“The challenge in using such popular music was to make it unique and different so it becomes, not necessarily the full piece of music, but it ‘reminds’ you of the music rather than being the exact music,” says Salterini.

Baumgarten adds: “I think Davidson and Diego have created music that creates a clear context and a reflection of a certain time.”

Salterini says he had an outline of how he saw the piece evolve.

“As we started working, Davidson and I kept a dialogue going. He has a great way of creating arcs with the music and I was able to translate or reflect what we discussed to create dance.”

Although the name “POP” implies fun and laughter, what resonates, in conjunction to the familiar tunes, is the emotional and somewhat political narrative that Salterini imparts through voice, video imagery and the set design and lighting created by Bruce Brown.

There are the voices of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that "pop" on screen to establish a time period. Dance elements reflect the sexual freedom of the '80s and then move into the AIDS crisis.

“It reflects the anger that was felt during that time, the lack of recognition and ignoring of what was happening,” Salterini says passionately. “And then we get to Prince and an edited reworked version of 'Sometimes It Snows in April' about mourning. That is a rather personal tribute to someone that Hannah and I have lost.”

“POP’s” final sections are ultimately energetic and fun and reflect the music and the joy of dance.

“In reality, some of the songs of that time were protest songs, very much rooted in validity and life. It was reflecting the youth of the time and it was often very deep,” says Salterini.

Faris says that even though these dancers didn’t live through the AIDS crisis, having just been through the COVID pandemic of the current time, the dancers very much relate to Salterini’s narrative.

“Even if we didn’t lose someone personally, we certainly are close to people who did and it affected us all,” she says.

“Tethered” by Baumgarten is an opportunity used to express viscerally abstract beautiful dance that connects to music and connects to form. Initially premiering in December of 2023, “Tethered” is a development of movement for four dancers.

Dance NOW! Miami in Daniel Lewis' quirky and dramatic


Dance NOW! Miami in Daniel Lewis' quirky and dramatic "Open Book." From left, Amanda Davis, Jean Da Silva, David Jewett, Julia Faris, Austin Duclos, and Rae Wilcoxson. (Photo by Quinn Lewis)

“It has themes of the connectedness that we have to each other,” says Baumgarten. “It is an accumulation of the different types of connections we have; playful or peaceful, responsive, floating together, not with any narrative whatsoever, but with very human qualities.”

For a dancer, revisiting a work, often provides familiarity and technical confidence, as well as digging deeper into the piece itself. Original cast members David Jewett, Austin Duclos and Natalia Uribe Flores are joined by Faris who jumped into the piece, as Baumgarten says, when another dancer was injured.

“Tethered” has a set also created by designer Bruce Brown which carries forward the theme of growing into interconnectedness. Working again with Davidson Jaconello, the score is one of his many compositions that Baumgarten felt was appropriate to be adapted and reworked for her piece.

Lewis is reviving his 1981 piece, “Open Book” that was created and is dedicated to Lewis’s cousin Joan, who died by suicide. Using phrases of poetry lines taken from Lewis’s favorite poems, the work explores themes of community, mental illness and desperation.


"POP" poster design by Larry Chidsey. From left, Jenny Hegarty, Dariel Milan with original photography by Jenny Abreu.

It was originally created on Lewis’ own company dancers and performed in theaters and universities all across the U.S. Even in the '80s the topic of depression and suicide was relevant.

Baumgarten explains, “When we first performed the piece in February for high school students, it was amazing the understanding and appreciation for bringing a subject to the forefront that is often not spoken about, and is especially relevant in these times.

One of the teachers acknowledged at the time, "art is an expression that can be used to cope."

“It deals with suicide and death but in a comical fashion,” says Lewis. “You don’t feel it throughout the piece until one moment, and then everything changes and becomes very rigid.”

A mother and a father standing and a daughter sitting on the floor open the work.

The mother says, “The graves of our children are the best places to hear pleas for mercy.” The powerful words are compiled by Lewis who spent his early years writing poetry.

The three main characters are the mother, Faris, the Father, Jean Louis de Silva, and the daughter, played by Rae Wilcoxson.

“I give the dancers a lot of freedom,” says Lewis. “They go from being beautiful dancers to using very quirky movements. They come in and out of reality.”

Unusual in “Open Book,” the dancers are each speaking various lines throughout.

“It is all the things that are going on in your mind when you’re in a dark place,” says Lewis. “We’ve all been in a dark place. Those things that you think about, then you turn it off like a light switch. Otherwise you just don’t get through life.”

The music is a compilation of Mahler, Wagner and Rossini; beautiful classical music that carries the heaviness of the subject matter.

Faris says all three pieces are very different and reflect three very distinct voices.

“For newer members of the company, this is the first time they are part of a work that is being created on us,” says Faris. “So the choreography is made specifically for each dancer. It’s giving all the dancers an opportunity to express themselves through the movement and also to relate to the three dances very differently. This program is really taking us from old modern to new contemporary and it gives a lot of versatility to the dancers.”

Baumgarten adds, “This program is an emotional, an aesthetic and stylistic journey. One that audiences will walk out from with their heads bopping and feeling joy.”

Lewis ties up the program's theme:

“Life is complicated, but we all get through it.”


  • WHAT: Dance NOW! Miami Program III featuring world premiere of "Pop".
  • WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, May 17.
  • WHERE: Broward Center for the Performing Arts Amaturo Theater, 201 SW Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
    $50 reserved seating, $20 for students with valid ID, at box office only.
  • INFORMATION: (305) 975-8489 or


  • WHAT: Dance NOW! Miami Program III featuring world premiere of "Pop".
  • WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18.
  • WHERE: Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th Street, Aventura, FL.
    $45 reserved seating, $20 for students with valid ID at box office only.
  • INFORMATION: (305) 975-8489 or

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