Dance Now! Miami Performs Lacrymosa, a Dance of Life, This Weekend

Dance Now! Miami brings choreographer Edward Stierle’s evocative Lacrymosa home to South Florida this weekend. The performance comes more than 20 years after its premiere with the Joffrey Ballet and since the untimely death (at age 23) of Stierle, a Hollywood, Forida native.

In Lacrymosa, the work and the life of the choreographer are inseparable. The word is Latin for weeping and is a dance about sorrow. Stierle created the number after he had been diagnosed as HIV positive. In this powerful piece, he takes the audience on an interior journey of human frailty and mortality. He turned to Mozart’s Requiem for the score — a poignant choice, since Lacrymosa became Stierle's own requiem.

“It’s a beautiful piece,” says Hannah Baumgarten, co- artistic director of Dance Now!. “He was creating his own ballet while facing his mortality... it’s a memorial piece.”

The choreography occurred over a period of time in Stierle’s short life, beginning in 1989 when he performed what would become the touching solo in Lacrymosa at the prestigious International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. He won a gold medal. Robert Joffrey was sitting at the judges table, and after that performance Stierle joined the Joffrey Ballet shortly after. He expanded and completed the piece while with the company and it premiered with the Joffrey Ballet in 1990. Anna Kisselgoff, then dance critic for the New York Times, described it as “gripping and deeply felt.”
Dance Now! is presenting Lacrymosa as part of its Masterpiece in Motion program. The company is  "developing a history of [presenting] emerging choreographers and building up a repertory of master works,” says Baumgarten. Over the years, they have performed works by Gerald Arpino (Joffrey Ballet), Tandy Beal, and Carolyn Dorfmann. Stierle’s ballet is adapted by the local dancers, who are trained in ballet, modern, and jazz, and are able to transition between styles.

Lacrymosa is filled with emotion and the knowledge of time passing too quickly. It’s hauntingly beautiful in its depiction of the dancer's awareness of his illness; the choreography speaks to all and has the feel of someone mature beyond his years. The fact that Stierle's voice was stilled so soon is a loss to the dance community and beyond.

The central pas de deux is like a dialogue between best friends. The movements are, at times, grounded; the air heavy with the understanding of the near future. Dancers Allyn Ginns (on pointe) and Anthony Velazquez evoke an image of true friendship in their support of each other. Stierle doesn’t end his ballet with a focus on death but instead on the celebration of life. The last two movements are joyous and uplifting. They showcase Dance Now! Miami’s strength as a strong dynamic company and honors the choreographer in their performance of his work and his artistic vision.

Stierle died of AIDS shortly after completing his second and final ballet, Empyrean Dances. “We need to have the conversation about AIDS openly,” says Baumgarten. Depressingly, Miami-Dade and Broward counties are ranked number one and two in new HIV cases in the nation. To this end, Thursday is a special, closed performance, free to LGBTQ youth. There will also be a discussion led by community leaders.

– Diana Dunbar, artburstmiami.com

Dance Now! Miami Lacrymosa
Runs Thursday (LGBTQ only), Friday, and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the Gleason Room Backstage at the Fillmore (1700 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach). Tickets cost $35 for general admission, and $25 students and seniors. Visit dancenowmiami.org.

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