Dancing Dirty

Like a biochemist studying strains of reality, Cuba-based choreographer/performance artist Marianela Boan is constantly seeking new and bold mutations. Her work is a study of contrasts, a morphing of opposing influences without preconceived notions of what will turn out in the end. In her quest to discover new forms of expression, she's found that the most honest approach is to steer away from purity. Her art, she says, is open to adulteration. To taint, in her view, is to challenge givens and throw open the doors of perception. The end result distills into what Boan calls "Contaminated Dance," a kinetic melding of any and all artistic influences at a given moment.

"I'm always looking for a new vehicle of communication," Boan says. "There are no assumptions. My work is very direct -- it's very frontal. It's not always pretty. It moves beyond emotion into a 'multi-literarity.'"

If this seems heady, it's not. Boan works with raw and primal movement. As long as it's honest, and not concerned with making everybody comfortable, it works. She recently performed a Miami-inspired piece in which she sunbathed and pranced à la Sophia Vergara, in a one-piece camouflage bathing suit, combat boots, and gaudy tourist sunglasses. The performance cross-pollinates a world at war and Ocean Drive magazine drivel with the fear of aging. In this context the piece addresses a spiritual void while alluding to the rigors of plastic surgery in a Chaplin-esque physical language. She calls the piece "Lifting 1," and plans a few more "Liftings" inspired by her time in Miami.

A resident of Havana, Boan is in town on a two-month exploratory junket to soak up the city's flavor, compliments of the Miami Light Project. The trip is field research for her upcoming scheduled performances in November. This summer she'll be artist in residence at some of the most influential dance theater workshops in America, including a stint with Robert Wilson at the Watermill Foundation in New York. Boan began experimenting with different artistic mediums when she formed her own company DanzAbierta in 1988. She had previously performed for fifteen years with Cuba's Contemporary Dance Theater.

Boan brings her Contaminated Dance to Miami this week in a series of workshops for artists of differing mediums. She begins the series with three days of movement sessions for painters, sculptors, and any other visual artists. In the classes she will challenge participants to break all assumptions and creative patterns by knowingly moving in opposite directions from their gut instincts. These improvisations are what she calls her strategy for surprise. The intent is to expose the artists to new channels of creative forces within themselves, and also to pick up a few ideas for herself.

"When you take on the parameters of a different art form," she says, "you grow."

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Juan Carlos Rodriguez