They may be beautiful, lithe, and mesmerizing to watch, but dancers also need to be savvy in times of diminishing funds for the arts. Rather than competing against one another, local dance companies are combining resources for the first annual Miami Beach Dance Festival. "We started the festival about a year and a half ago when the state arts' budget was cut by two-thirds," says Delma Iles, artistic director of Momentum Dance Company and coproducer of the festival. "Medium-size groups were really hurt by the funding cuts, and the festival was a way [for us] to work together; it's a creative response to financial crisis."
Hannah Baumgarten, codirector of the Dance Now! Ensemble (along with Diego Salterini) and coproducer of the festival, credits Iles and Ballet Flamenco la Rosa artistic director Ilisa Rosal as being mentors to her and Salterini. "Instead of being competitive, there is a real camaraderie amongst the arts community," says Baumgarten. "It's always a tough game in the arts with funding cuts, so this is a way to serve ourselves and the community a lot better." Dance Now! is known for pulling together different styles of dance to keep performances fresh and interesting. "There is enough diversity in our program that you may love some and hate another [part], but you will be touched by something," says Baumgarten. The Dance Now! Ensemble will perform Friday, April 22, at 8:00, and Sunday, April 24, at 7:00. Their show includes excerpts from Suite 305 and the premiere of a new duet by assistant director Colleen Farnum. "Go, Go, Go is about different kinds of strong and sexy women," says Baumgarten of Farnum's work. Salterini will also premiere his original work Chronicles, which Baumgarten describes as "abstract but with an Americana feel."
The festival itself incorporates a variety of dance styles into the weeklong event, including contemporary, Spanish (with Ballet Flamenco la Rosa performing Friday, April 22, at 8:00, and Sunday, April 24, at 7:00), Afro-Caribbean, and historic pieces by the Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble (featured Saturday, April 23, at 8:00, and Sunday, April 24, at 2:00).
The Momentum Dance Company performances (Saturday, April 23, at 8:00, and Sunday, April 24, at 2:00) will feature the world premiere of Iles's Birds Flying in Warped Time, in addition to Movimento Feroz, an Afro-Cuban dance about the animal that lives in all of us. The festival also offers local dancers a chance to take a class with professionals from the oldest contemporary dance company in the country: The Martha Graham Dance Company is hosting a master class for dancers at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 23, at the Momentum Dance Studio (1200 West Ave., Miami Beach). The class costs $20; space is limited. Call 305-858-7002.
The first annual Miami Beach Dance Festival runs through Sunday, April 24. All performances are at the Byron Carlyle Theater, 500 71st St, Miami Beach. Tickets for the National Dance Company of the Bahamas performance Thursday, April 21, at 8:00 cost $15; $5 for students and seniors. Tickets for the remaining shows cost $20; $8 for students and seniors. Call 305-858-7002, or visit www.momentumdance.com or www.dancenowmiami.org.