In one duet, two dancers use their bodies as counterweights, springing forth from each other with explosive power. In another, dancers form a sharp line before torsos undulate and fall one by one to the ground, leaving a solitary figure standing among the fallen.
So goes Dance Now!’s latest work, Bridges Not Walls, a statement about the power of art to make change, at a time when art and progress are under siege. It will premiere at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center this Friday.
For the 17-year-old dance company, now based in Little Haiti, the idea for the work was born from a cultural exchange project with a dance company in Mexico, long before current politics made wall-building part of the daily vernacular. The project was an exploration not of the physical divides, but of what causes divisions among people.
“Ultimately, what we decided is that identity is what we define ourselves with," Dance Now! cofounder Hannah Baumgarten explains. "And the question of who we are is what creates our personal boundaries and personal walls around us. If we change the question, can we bridge those walls? Can we find a commonality as humans? So this is our goal as a piece of choreography. This is our goal as choreographic collaborators on this project.”
It is a project not based solely on movement, because it also delves deeply into an understanding of human nature and human evolution. “We started talking about what walls do we all build as humans to protect ourselves?” Baumgarten says. “We... try to understand looking at genetic studies and understanding that human beings have a natural instinct not to have their genes stomped out — and how dominant genes do trump recessive genes. There’s an instinctive fear of the other that is primordial and is probably how the Neanderthals lost their place as the dominant species.
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“We’re talking about ancient feelings that we’re able to now voice and translate and manifest, sometimes in an unpleasant human expression. But we try to sort of breach the subject... that being afraid of the other, being afraid of the different, we should not look at that as a bad thing. We should just look at it as something that we’re powerless over. What we have power to do is try to have empathy and understand our common humanity.”
Dance also allows Baumgarten to tell that story of common humanity in a way that is unique to the art form. “You can never escape the humanity of [dance] because it is the human body in motion. It’s impossible to have dance without having humans.”
— Rebekah Lanae Lengel, artburstmiami.com
Dance Now! Presents Contemporanea
Including the world premiere of Bridges not Walls and an encore presentation of Ritmo Jondo. 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 24, at Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura; 877-311-7469. Tickets cost $35.