Cameron Basden, Dance Writer
Dance NOW! Miami (DNM) returns to the Miami Theater Center (MTC) in a performance that is a return to a partnership project between DNM and MTC that was in the infancy stages before the onset of COVID.
It includes MTC presenting DNM in four student performances as part of the Cultural Passport education program, and one main public performance for the Miami Shores and greater dance community. The public performance is at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 4.
The project has come to fruition through the whirlwind force of MTC Artistic Director, Victoria Row-Traster who also oversees all partnerships and educational programs.
In keeping with its mission, to connect with student audiences, to continue presentation of world premier works and for the DNM dancers to perform at MTC, a stellar theater, is an opportunity DNM is excited to take advantage of.
To that end, the DNM performances are chock full of world premieres, an audience favorite, and an unexpected surprise.
Making its world premiere is “Tribe,” a new work choreographed by DNM Co-Artistic Director Diego Salterini. It speaks to community and "finding the place where one belongs."
“Tribe” is a thematic work - meaning it has no direct narrative but reveals the essence of a story through movement, emotion and artistry. The epic music for “Tribe” is an original composition by longtime DNM collaborator, Federico Bonacossa and will be played live for the public performance.
DNM dancer and rehearsal director, Allyn Ginns-Ayers is the featured dancer in “Tribe.”
“I think the idea of the piece is finding where you belong and shedding layers of masks that you might wear in public or things that have built up around yourself as an idea of who you are and getting to the essence of who you really are,” explains Ginns-Ayers.
She continues to explain that for her character, the journey is explored through movement and through the costume color and style.
The movement in the early part of the piece is rather external and imposed and then later, as community is established, the movement becomes more organic, more internal.
“When the first costume comes off, is shed, I collapse to the ground and then am lifted by the community. For me it’s shedding ideas and then finding what feels real.”
Ginns-Ayers has danced with DNM for ten years. While she has done many ballets choreographed by Salterini, this is the first time he has created a role on her. Finding your ‘tribe’ somewhat parallels Ginns-Ayers’ story with DNM. She joined as a ballet dancer, with no modern experience. Over the years, she has not only found that the DNM contemporary movement is suited to her, but she has also found the DNM company has become like her extended family.
“We’re a tight-knit group in the company and there is a lot of trust,” she says.
Ginns-Ayers also realizes that as a person driven to excel in her life, (she’s both a dancer and a lawyer) she feels pressure, whether self-imposed or not, to achieve. Focusing on what is real and in front of her is a far more productive and results-oriented way to manage the realities of life’s challenges.
“Tribe’ was the perfect fit for her and it seems that Salterini is almost telling the Ginns-Ayers story through dance.
DNM Co-Artistic Director Hannah Baumgarten makes her return to the stage in “My Body/My Voice.” Baumgarten has performed for over 45 years but has not been on the stage for the past seven or eight years. In this new work, she is reflecting on the factual road blocks that come with being an aging dancer; the injuries, which Baumgarten has had her fair share of, the inability to have the "youthful energy" that is so in demand today and the daily extreme physical requirements.
As rehearsals commenced and material was being developed, Baumgarten did a spiral on the floor, and severely injured her shoulder.
“I thought I was going to completely have to scrap the work,” she says.
After pondering the situation, she realized that this was exactly what the piece was about - having to deal with the changes that our bodies present and the mental repercussions.
Baumgarten conferenced with friend, Colleen Farnum, dancer and former muse, to workshop ideas and movement.
“It was a serendipitous moment when we worked together,” Baumgarten reflects, “that a colleague and another aging woman could identify with.
“I created a solo that is about mourning this moment, mourning this idea of what it is to be an aging performer who is being watched by a younger dancer. The young dancer reveres me, helps me to live in this present moment. But as time progresses, I have to allow the younger dancer to take over,” Baumgarten explains.
“So my voice continues through others,” she says. “My body, my voice. The music is a mix of iconic, but not well known, blues and jazz, that is very heartfelt.”
Another premiere is from the DNM initiative, New Voices showcasing the choreography of dancers Renee Roberts and Anthony Velazquez called “Lost and Found.” It is a dynamic, three movement work about their friendship - differences, anxieties and how being together and being there for each other has made them stronger.
A past work that is being reprised is “Memos from the Last Millennium.” Baumgarten says the work is a sexy, narrative period piece.
Explaining further Baumgarten says, “Without the infra-structure of society to hold you together, and you are in the wild as ‘pioneers,’ what happens to people? They can become very raw, and things may turn.” She laughed. “Well, we’ll see.”
To conclude the performance, DNM will perform José Limon/Daniel Lewis’s “The Waldstein Sonata.”
“Waldstein” is not only an inspirational and exuberant piece, it has been the backbone of a collaborative partnership between DNM and the New York-based, Limón Dance Company. This performance will be in preparation and in anticipation of DNM’s tour to New York to perform with the Limón Company in May of 2023.
Miami Theater Center presents Dance NOW! Miami. 7 p.m., Saturday, March 4. Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave. Miami Shores. Tickets $35 adults and $25 children. To purchase tickets:ci.ovationtix.com