Daniel Lewis conceived the idea of the Miami Dance Sampler performance in 1993 to create a "home base" for local dancers and to allow audiences to discover the diverse mecca of dance that existed in Miami.
“It was a means to bring the community together,” Lewis said.
Taking the reins in 2011, Dance Now! Miami (DNM) Co-Directors Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini, renamed the Sampler to honor its founder and expanded the reach of the Sampler to include all of Florida. On Friday, Oct. 23, the Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler kicks-off the Florida dance season with a much anticipated introduction to what's in store for South Florida dance throughout the rest of the year.
According to Baumgarten, "It is a showcase of the season to come — a preview of the dance season."
Salterini said: “We hope to cross pollinate audiences who attend different things. If you don’t expose audience members to what is possible in dance, they might never know.”
"That is what I call audience development,” Lewis said enthusiastically.
Under Baumgarten and Salterini, originally presented at The Little Haiti Cultural Center, which houses DNM, the idea was to "pay it forward," according to Baumgarten, by bringing the dance community together. When New World School of the Arts celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2016-17, NWSA united with DNM to present the Sampler in its downtown performance space.
Additionally, to have funding to enable the artists to get paid, Baumgarten and Salterini joined forces with the National Dance Educators Organization to create a mutually beneficial partnership that remains to this day. And, there's more: The state of Florida joined the team to provide funding to make this a statewide endeavor.
This year, the Sampler is going virtual with some unexpected benefits.
"While the state funding for this year has been cut 100%, the lemonade is that, going virtual, we were able to invite artists throughout the state of Florida because we didn’t have to pay transportation and housing expenses,” Baumgarten said.
A different array of artists is engaged to represent the range of dance in the Florida community.
“Every year is a mix of larger and smaller organizations,” Salterini explained. “This year, working virtually, it actually allowed us to open up to some people who mainly work on video. Their work is made to be seen virtually, such as Sandra Portal-Andreu, Kyra Jean Green. Karen Peterson has created something totally different, from what we’ve seen so far."
To realize her visual imagery, Portal-Andreu was inspired to collaborate with video editor, Mateo Serna Zapata to create a work filmed at Matheson Hammock Park that weaves in and out of the environment and our man-made world. The piece was specifically created for film. Portal-Andreu’s work is totally contrasted by Arts Ballet Theater who presents a pas de deux excerpt from Vicente Nebrada's "Nuestro Valses," ("Our Waltzes") showing a dynamic and passionate feat of classical partnering at its finest. Miami’s own Pioneer Winter presents “Glory Tap.” Who knew Winter was a tapper? This charming footage from 2011 takes tappin' into a new realm.
Ballet Flamenco La Rosa goes "Directo al Corazón" ("Straight to the Heart") in an excerpt from the Ibsen inspired story of Hedda Gabler and filmed at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. An international cast of renowned flamenco artists tells a complex story with wit, passion and beauty.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, a choreographer known throughout the world, will present her work "Nube Blanco," which was adapted and performed by the New World Dance Ensemble as part of its 30th Anniversary in 2017. Created originally by Ochoa for Chicago’s Luna Negra in 2009, "Nube Blanco" is based on Ochoa's childhood memories and the beautiful songs of Maria Dolores Pradera. NWDE will be working with Lopez Ochoa later in the season, so this is a true preview of what is to come.
Making a second appearance in the Sampler is Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami. Its pas, "Space Between Words," choreographed by Donna Goffredo Murray, is an elegant and sculptural duet about "what is not said" and viewed more closely through the magic of video editing by Yanis Eric Pikieris. Video is a common factor in the work of Kyra Jean Green and her company, Trip the Light Fantastic. Her haunting piece, "The Man Who Traveled Nowhere in Time" arouses the senses and heart-rate in a piece that was adapted specifically to be filmed for virtual viewing.
Momentum Dance Company presents an excerpt choreographed by director, Delma Iles, entitled "Quatre Regards" filmed at the North Miami Beach Performing Arts Theater in 2001. Iles has been in the Miami dance scene for many years and is responsible for propelling numerous artists, including Baumgarten and Salterini, into this dance community and making it as expansive as it is today.
One of the silver linings about this "virtual new normal" is that artists are discovering alternate ways of expression and developing untapped skills. Karen Peterson Coresh, artistic director of Karen Peterson and Dancers takes this idea to heart in "Deep Concern."
“I filmed it with three cameras, which is new for me, and I did all the editing,” Peterson revealed. "I’m by myself in a studio. I had time on my hands and…I’ve been worried a lot. As I started to move, I had this visceral reaction to what’s happening in our country. I’m very concerned about the political climate, the social inadequacies in our country. I’m concerned about the health of my family and I’m concerned about the development of my dance company and the future. All of that emotional energy inside my body came out in this solo.”
While all artists have been living in a virtual world, Baumgarten and Salterini have been adapting to this time by remaining busy, encouraging and positive. They have been committed to keeping their artists and audiences engaged by providing the creation of new work, humorous advocacy videos, web streams, offering a wide range of classes, and Salterini has been honing his editing skills. They will culminate the performance with a made-for-video performance appropriately called "Zoomlife," which had its premier as part of their 20th Anniversary Performance in May.
NOTE: For the past two years, as the Artistic Director of Miami Dance Hub, I have hosted pre-performance discussions to preview what the participating organizations will be presenting and provide a little organization history. In this virtual performance, I am tasked by Baumgarten and Salterini to conduct short interviews prior to each presentation. There will be ten selections and ten brief interviews in the hour and a half performance to give perspective into this various genres.
The Virtual Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler will be online at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 23 as a private link YouTube stream. The program and link to the performance will be provided once tickets have been purchased. Tickets are $10 for all which provide a private link, and can be purchased in advance at www.dancenowmiami.org/events/sampler2020.