In 1981, American choreographer and dancer Gerald Arpino saw the world debut of his East-meets-West-themed Light Rain ballet in New York City. It was performed by the dance company he co-founded with Robert Joffrey, The Joffrey Ballet.
The New York Times wrote that "Light Rain... is one of Mr. Arpino's slickest efforts in the pop-erotic genre and it is mighty good slick." With music by Doug Adamz and Russ Gautier, the work became an instant audience favorite.
Now, more than 30 years later, audiences in South Florida have the chance to discover some of that sexy mist on stage when contemporary ensemble Dance NOW! Miami performs the ballet's signature pas de deux.
Presented here for the first time by a non-Joffrey company, the piece - running Saturday, Feb 22, to Sunday, Feb. 23 - is part of the aquatic-inspired Il Mare. Dance NOW!'s artistic directors and founders Diego Salterini and Hannah Baumgarten will also feature their works Oceanica and Water's Edge, the Long Walk, respectively.
"We have had a growing connection to the Joffrey history, starting with Michael Uthoff, who has been one of our guest choreographers and artistic advisers and who danced for the Joffrey," said Baumgarten from the company's home base at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. "Diego and I have taught every summer for the past 10 years at the Interlochen Center for the Arts [in Michigan], and the director of dance, Cameron Basden, was Arpino's associate director for many years. We met her there, she saw our work and said, 'Maybe you could do some of the Arpino work.'"
Baumgarten brought the idea to Miami philanthropist and arts patron Harvey Burstein who suggested the company design a whole evening where the Light Rain ballet, rather than being on its own, would fit into a full project.
"We decided to create Il Mare, which is all water-themed works," Baumgarten said. "And even though the duet is entitled Light Rain, it's not actually about rain. It's a rain of light, not of water. But it's a beautiful play on words, and it suits our team perfectly."
Salterini's Oceanica, from 2012, went under the sea for inspiration. The native of Rome was a swimmer, and the performance pays homage to its creatures. Baumgarten's piece was inspired by her ritual of walking on the beach, hence the name Water's Edge, the Long Walk, which had its premiere in Miami last November.
Still, the real treat is Light Rain.
"We have two of our wonderful dancers [Megan Holsinger and Luke Stockton] performing, with the blessing of Cameron Basden," Baumgarten said excitedly. Basden was the ballet master and co-associate director of The Joffrey Ballet from 1993 to 2008, so that blessing is kind of a big deal.
"Dance NOW! Miami provides an excellent opportunity to showcase this signature pas [de deux] to Miami audiences," Basden said. "With Dance NOW!'s blend of classicism and contemporary techniques, and their ode to the history of The Joffrey Ballet, I see this pas as pushing boundaries for the company and introducing both dancers and audiences to the freedom, the passion and the spirit that have always been at the heart of Gerald Arpino's ballets."
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The vote of confidence bestowed on Dance NOW! to perform Light Rain is one that Baumgarten trusts will resonate.
"I really think Miami audiences will vibe with this," Baumgarten said. "It's from 1981, and the '80s was when Miami started to turn up its heat as far as being a major city. It just has a sexiness, a raw energy -- and the score! It has a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic sound. The kind of thing that we are extremely familiar with here. It's a great fit for Miami and a great fit for our company."
--Juan Carlos Pérez-Duthie, artburstmiami.com
'Il Mare,' at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Saturday, Feb. 22, and Sunday, Feb. 23. The show starts at at 8:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Tickets: $35 general, $30 in advance, $15 students and seniors via neweratickets.com. Call 305-975-8489 or visit dancenowmiami.org.