Mary Luft founded Tigertail Productions in 1979, after working as a choreographer and dancer. She worked with Fusion Dance Company, and it was her involvement with New Music America (a traveling festival that began in New York) that helped launch Tigertail. "As a choreographer I was always interested in music and finding music," says Luft. The 1988 New Music America Miami Festival brought national and international attention to the company, and prompted Luft to travel in search of new talent. "I wanted to bring South America into the project," she says. "And we feel it's important to keep the doors open. We need to have international work come here." Luft emphasizes that Tigertail is "interested in innovation; work that's innovated and has a strong voice," so you can always expect "a unique viewpoint that directly connects you to the artists."
Tucked in the back yard of an old tree-lined street hugging the Miami River, Tigertail Productions works with very little overhead. The scent of a blooming lime tree blows through their little house as they work on grants and plan productions. The company has presented more than 500 artists since its inception, including dance, music, and visual arts, and it also publishes Tigertail, A South Florida Poetry Annual. Tigertail partners with the Florida Dance Association to produce another project, danceAble, a unique dance program that provides opportunities for dancers with disabilities.
Luft's group is also involved in bringing the arts to children and young adults. Now in its third year, the Tigertail Youth Project in Little Havana is a free summer art camp for inner-city children that includes music, theater, and dance classes, in addition to weekly field trips; a spoken-word program for teenagers called WordSpeak is sending two teens to San Francisco this year to experience the National Poetry Slam.
Tigertail Productions also awards Artist Access grants to promote opportunities for development in individual artists. The company itself receives funding from grants, donations, corporate sponsors, partnerships, and fundraising events. The cake party should bring in some cash, as well as sugary snacks. The celebration includes George Neary as MC, with San Francisco comedian Bill Santiago adding his hilariously clever stand-up routine, songs by Sidney Brien, and a surprise performance or two. -- Lyssa Oberkreser