Florida audiences can experience a multitude of diverse dance this weekend when the Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler celebrates its 13th year in what's become an informal kick-off of the South Florida dance season. Uniting some of the state’s best dance organizations and choreographers, ten curated works will be performed previewing the vast high-caliber dance in Florida that will be seen throughout the season.
The “Sampler," as it is familiarly called, is produced by Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini, co-directors of Dance NOW! Miami (DNM), along with Daniel Lewis, director of Miami Dance Futures, the Florida Dance Education Organization and, in collaboration with the New World School of the Arts, of which Lewis is the former dean of dance.
Originally presented only in Miami, the Sampler has expanded to include an opening performance on Friday, Oct. 6, at Artis-Naples Hayes Hall in Naples, and continues Miami performances on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Sunday, Oct 8, at Miami's New World School of the Arts Dance Theater.
“I think one of the most exciting things that we are celebrating, as we look into the future, is that the Sampler has expanded beyond Miami-Dade County. We’re now in the second year of partnering with Artis-Naples,” says Baumgarten. “It is really a stamp of approval that the Floridian dance scene has a strong enough presence to be presented in Naples where some of the most iconic (Florida) East Coast dance companies perform.”
While the Sampler gives a taste, or sample, of dance in South Florida, with the numerous participating organizations, it also serves as a reminder of just how the dance community here has matured and grown. The dance season is longer, starts earlier in the fall and often on a weekend, there may be three or four dance performances happening at once in various theaters throughout Miami.
Salterini says,”It gives us the confidence that this is an important event for South Florida dance and that the dance community is thriving.”
Most of all, the Sampler provides an opportunity to experience an array of dance on a single stage in one performance.
Included in the performances are established pillars of the dance community, such as Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, Ballet Vero Beach, Dance NOW! Miami, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami and Ballet Flamenco La Rosa. These companies are tried and true, have complete dance seasons in southern Florida and beyond and are familiar names in the dance community.
“We want to make this opportunity available to professional dance organizations and choreographers,” continues Salterini. “ While we can’t include everyone, we do want to feature newer organizations.”
Again, dance is growing.
Some of the newer dance organizations to be discovered and who are making their first or second appearance on the Sampler stage are Omayra Amaya Flamenco Dance Company, choreographer and dancer, Emily Ricca, Syncopate Collective and Zest Collective.
In a yearly salute to future generations of dancers, students from the New World Dance Ensemble, and many who will eventually populate the larger companies here in South Florida, present “Rush Hour” choreographed by Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey’s Artistic Director. The students share the stage with professionals to make the performance even more encompassing for the audiences and to expose the young dancers to the wealth of dance possibilities in South Florida.
“There is always an ebb and flow in companies. We are fortunate to live in a great community with a lot of support for the arts,” says Baumgarten. “We are seeing companies become more solid and audiences are growing.”
The Dance Sampler is a wonderful example of multiple partnerships and collaborations.
Salterini and Baumgarten say that everyone included in the Sampler is an organization that will present works throughout the year. There are long-standing organizations such as the 40-year-old Ballet Flamenco La Rosa, alongside Syncopate Collective, a newer company.
“It is important for us to bring together multiple organizations under the same roof. Organizations that are usually in their own corners. They come together and realize ‘Oh, this is our community,' ” says Salterini.
A first-time participant in the Sampler is dancer and choreographer Emily Ricca who uses dance as an educator and to do community performances in the Miami area and throughout the U.S. Ricca will present “Coleridge Classic,” a pas de deux (dance for two) with Isaiah Gonzales.
“I am so thrilled to be a part of the show, I love bringing dancers together and to share in the growth of the arts. You never know what sparks from that,” says Ricca.
Ricca is using music composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, an early Black British classical composer. The work was originally commissioned for a performance when dance was just getting back on its feet after the COVID pandemic.
“I have worked so much by myself,” says Ricca. “This is a wonderful opportunity to be around the dance community and to be performing in front of a new audience.”
Gentry Isaiah George, artistic director of Zest Collective will present an excerpt from “Afro Blue.” Zest initially started in New York in 2013 to provide opportunities for dancers, musicians and artists to collaborate. The company regrouped in Miami after the pandemic and has since established itself.
“The Sampler has given us opportunities both last year and again this year to perform at different venues and opened our eyes to other dancers,” says George. “I had trained with Vladimir ( Issaev, director of Arts Ballet Theater of Florida) so it was really quite nice sharing the program.”
Zest Collective will be performing the Afro-modern, contemporary style upbeat finale section from “Afro Blue.” The music by Mongo Santamaria is a conversation between Afro-Jazz, Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean that took place during the height of the Civil Rights era.
“I really hope the audience feels joy, the energy, charisma, that they are moved by the dancers and have a sense of uplifting,” says George. “I love that the Sampler creates opportunities. I had no idea we would be going to Naples.”
Another new voice on the program is Omayra Amaya Flamenco Dance Company. They are international, but their roots are in Miami and a portion of their yearly shows are for Miami audiences. Amaya has been living in Miami for 20 years.
“The Sampler is such a wonderful event, bringing so many voices together and bringing community,” says Amaya. “As a dancer and artist, there is nothing better than to be exposed to other artists, new audiences and to collaborate. It’s inspiring and really beneficial to everyone.”
Amaya is presenting “A Solas,” an intimate solo that was created during the pandemic. It’s a piece about the effects of isolation, losing someone and what was experienced during that solitude.
“It is about how the dancer mourns, but also lives within the memory,” says Amaya. “ I think Flamenco is the best tool for expressing our current times and our current situation. Even though it is a very old art form, it is very present.”
The more established Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida is presenting a full company piece, “Double Clef” choreographed by the iconic Vicente Nebrada. Ballet Vero Beach presents the beautiful choreography of Camilo A. Rodriguez in “Watching Rocks Grow.” “Seguiriyas” from Ballet Flamenco La Rosa including live music, opens the performances. Syncopate Collective offers the choreography of Rena Butler in an excerpt of “Fit Out” and Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami presents the lovely “Esferas” choreographed by Miami City Ballet’s Ariel Rose. The performances close with Dance NOW! Miami in the now landmark work, “Gli Altri/The Others” excerpt choreographed by Baumgarten and Salterini.
In addition to the three performances, the Sampler also includes a video dance element.
Salterini says, “This is now such an important part of viewing dance in our community. There are numerous screen dance festivals that provide opportunities.”
The Sampler Video Dance showcase is available as a "curtain raiser" to the performances starting Friday, Sept. 29. Sampler Video Dance Showcase is available to view at: www.vimeo.com/miamidancefutures
Baumgarten adds, “After the intense work of so many dance artists during the pandemic, we feel we need to honor the work specifically made for screen.”
The DLDS was originally founded in 1987 by Daniel Lewis, as the “Miami Dance Sampler,” with the intention of introducing audiences to new genres of dance that might not be on their radar. The performances continued for 11 years until 1998 when Lewis’ responsibilities as dean of the New World School of the Arts dance department took priority.
The "Sampler" was revived in 2011 by Baumgarten and Salterini as the “Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler.”
“We have realized that with the Sampler, we’re not just introducing new audience members to new forms of dance,” says Baumgarten. “We’re also helping to propel dancers themselves into other dance experiences, so it’s a win-win in every way.”
The Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler
- 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 8, at New World School of the Arts Dance Theater, 25 NE 2nd Street, 8th floor, Miami
- $25 general admission, $15 students.
Tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.dancenowmiami.org
Friday, Oct. 6 at Artis-Naples
www.dancenowmiami.org (305) 975-8489 or email@example.com
- Artis-Naples Hayes Hall, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd, Naples