In the midst of summer, when Miami dance performance is almost non-existent, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM), keeps dance alive and thriving with an exciting yearly summer dance presentation.
This year, DDTM presents “Program II: Summer Dances” at the Dennis C. Moss Cultural Arts Center (formerly known as the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center) on Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16.
Co-director Jennifer Kronenberg says, “It’s not usual for a dance company to perform in the summer, but we really like doing it. It gives the dancers a little more consistency in their work, rather than being off for three months. We have a lot of residents and families who come in the summer - many of whom can’t come during the year because of school obligations. We love that.”
The “Summer Dances” program juxtaposes the old and the new. It includes two world premieres and two pieces that are being revisited. “It’s important for us, as part of our mission, to give platforms for choreographers to create, and in this program, we have two brand new creations,” Kronenberg says.
“It’s also nice, after seven years in to revisit works that we did before,” she continues. “We approach them with a little more understanding, intelligence, more confidence - more artistry.”
Since its inception in 2016, there are some of the original dancers in the company. Kronenberg says this "core of dancers" has allowed the company to be more cohesive, so that new dancers coming in, blend easily and fit into DDTM well.
“In the beginning, everyone was brand new, no one had done these styles before and it was very daunting,” she says. “Now we’re a little older, have a bit more stability, and we have more rehearsal weeks. We certainly see it starting to develop into a more solid company. The dancers, while we’re still a box of chocolates (meaning they are all unique), speak the same language and have a unity that maybe wasn’t as strong in the beginning.”
Two of the pieces being revisited are Gerald Arpino’s sensual, “Light Rain” and late Venezuelan choreographer, Vicente Nebrada’s, “Fiebre” (Fever). “Light Rain” opens the show. Meaning a rain of light, it was a signature piece of the Joffrey Ballet since its creation in the early 1980s in New York until Arpino’s death in 2008 in Chicago.
Choreographed on the new and energetic dancers in the Joffrey, “Light Rain”is a dazzling piece that allows the DDTM dancers to showcase their unique talents while staying true to the Arpino-esque style.
In “Light Rain” Arpino’s torso-infused contemporary movement is blended with speed, flying leaps and high battements (kicks) all to a timeless East-West fusion score. It is as fun to dance as it is for the audience to watch. Second on the program is the world premiere of “Salt Water Song” by Marika Brussel, a professional dancer, turned writer, turned choreographer. A native New Yorker who is much in demand, Brussel shares her love of dance through her choreography. “When I started choreographing, I thought of it as another way to tell the stories that I wanted to tell,” she says. “I realized that you can tell really socially relevant stories through ballet.”
She has created works about social justice and homelessness, but this particular piece speaks to female empowerment and reframing the story so that the woman is the leader of the narrative. The story is about the ancient myth of Calypso, Odysseus and The Sirens. “Miami is a very water-based city, and I wanted to create something that incorporated people’s love of the water and the intrinsic value of the sea.” Brussel has taken the ancient myth and reworked it to portray Calypso with a more positive, human perspective. “As people, we are not one thing, we are many things. I was so interested in the Sirens because ultimately, their voices kill men. What does that say?”
She asked: “What is their song, why is it so beautiful, what draws people to their song? I didn’t have an answer, but that’s where I wanted to experiment with the dancers.” Ultimately, in “Salt Water Song,” everything is song, everything is movement and the beauty is what draws you to it. The easily understandable narrative shows where you are in the now, and what possibilities are there for you."
Brussel says, “ I hope that people see that woman can lead their own narrative. Maybe the story that we always think of is not the only story.” Beatriz García, born in Havana, Cuba, joins DDTM having been a dancer with Malpaso Dance Company and collaborating with high profile choreographers the world over. She is an independent artist who choreographs and dances - and she will be dancing in her piece, “En Camino.”
After previewing a short eight-minute section of “En Camino” in DDTM’s earlier Black Box series, Garcia has now completed the entire 20-minute piece. In English accented by Spanish, Garcia beautifully explains “En Camino.”
“This piece is about human resilience and the necessity to find a better place, to keep moving. I’ve made an analogy to the migration of swallows. I’m fascinated by these birds and how these little birds can fly so, so far away to find another place - going through many obstacles. And I feel like, most of the time, the human being is going through the same thing. Always the human being needs to find something else - to get better, to develop, to discover. Get up and keep going.” She snaps her finger.
“En Camino” is a journey without a narrative. Garcia has taken her more unusual contemporary movement to challenge the dancers in new ways. At the same time, she blends it with ballet vocabulary, to use what they are most comfortable with. She hopes that the audience connects to what they see in the piece - the emotion, the movement, the feelings, the situation and the struggles.
The final piece on the program is Nebrada’s, “Fiebre” with live accompaniment by musical group Alain Garcia and The Latin Power Band playing tunes made famous by Cuban vocal sensation La Lupe. Four dynamic couples dance duets in the choreography of Vicente Nebrada known especially for his complex, difficult and dynamic partnering.
The ballet is rarely performed, so this is an opportunity to bring it back to life. DDTM rehearsal director, Yanis Pikieris, speaks about “Fiebre.”
“I like the drama, the exaggeration, the passion. Like La Lupe, the singer, she screams at you. Each couple is different, it goes with the lyrics, but,” Pikieris smiled. “ they’re all tortured - and we enjoy the drama, the extremes, the soap opera.” “and yes, they suffer quite a bit until they get it,” he joked.
“It’s not easy.” “Fiebre” carries drama in the lifts, the floor work and the physical effort of the group. The audience will sense that. “First and foremost we want to entertain people, for them to feel energized and excited and inspired to come back,” says Kronenberg.
“There is a human experience, a human connection in live performance. Artist to audience, audience to artist and audience to audience. You can’t explain it, but you definitely feel it.”
"Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami: Summer Dances," 8 p.m. Saturday, July 15 and 3 p.m., Sunday, July 16 at the Dennis C. Moss Cultural Arts Center, formerly South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211 ST., Cutler Bay, For information and tickets, call 786-573-5300 or go to moscenter.org