Birthdays and funerals are more than just places to pick up dates. You get front row seats to the witness the polar opposites of human emotion. That's what fascinates choreographer Rosie Herrera. Fitting then that at her new piece, Pity Party, "is about grief and loss." But that doesn't mean the party's a drag. "One of the things that really interested me is how similar birthday parties and funerals are," Herrera explains.
If you didn't think so before, you will after seeing the make-you-laugh, make-you-bawl works that made Herrera a star last summer at the American Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina. There she shared the bill with the most important dance companies in the nation to critical acclaim. "ADF is like a dream," says Herrera, on her newfound status as a regular guest at the festival.
"Being friends with [festival director] Charles Reinhart and having him on your side is like having Walt Disney or Mickey Mouse as your best friend." Now it's time for Miami audiences to see what Reinhart is so excited about as Herrera presents a full evening of her work for the first time in Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center with her ensemble, Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre.
Showgirl, b-girl, cabaret vamp, opra singer, and New World School of the Arts grad, Herrera came to concert dance late. "I had my first formal dance class when I was 19 years old," she reveals. But what she learned on the streets and in the clubs proved just as important: Herrera captures Miami's grit and glitz like no one else. Various Stages of Drowning: a Cabaret dives into unconscious desires, including a take on Titanic you'll never forget. Pity Party explores the pain behind the glittering smiles of drag queens, divas, and disco queens as birthday cakes turn into sinkholes and piñata bats become deadly weapons.
Rosie's party is big, with ten dancers, including local favorites Octavio Campos, Rudi Goblen, and Ana Mendez. "I'm crazy to ask this many people to work with me," she admits. "It's completely economically unfeasible, and it means I have no social life. But it's so rewarding." You'll think so too, as these outsize personalities take turns upstaging each other in a club-world-turned-concert-dance spectacle that only Miami could produce.
See Herrera's Pity Party and Various Stages of Drowning at 7:30 p.m. on Friday through Sunday at the Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Call 305-949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org.
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--Celeste Fraser Delgado, Artburstmiami.com