Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami has been on a meteoric trajectory. In its first 18 months, the troupe was a 2017 Knight Challenge Grant recipient, and in June, it will debut at New York’s Joyce Theater, followed by its first appearance at the storied Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
During that same period, the world of ballet has experienced upheavals set off by the #MeToo movement and the sudden retirement of New York City Ballet artistic director Peter Martins, after misconduct allegations surfaced detailing abuses stretching back decades.
In such an atmosphere many fledgling companies might play it safe. But not DDTM.
The title of their upcoming Saturday and Sunday performances at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center —An Intimate Evening of Ballet: Spotlight on Female Choreographers — telegraphs the company’s willingness to grapple head on with the art form’s burning questions surrounding gender, power, and ballet.
For artistic director and former Miami City Ballet principal dancer Jennifer Kronenberg, the decision to focus on women choreographers in the SMDCAC Lab Theater program was deliberate. “As dancers we don’t always have a voice,” Kronenberg says. “These works were not all created at the same time but to see them back to back is powerful.”
When asked whether the styles of women and men choreographers differed, she added, “I notice especially the emotional intelligence of the women choreographers. I’ve never had a male choreographer turn to me and say about a movement he was crafting, ‘Do you like this?’ However, I’ve had this experience repeatedly working with women.
"Women choreographers don’t do this because they’re insecure," she says. "They do it because they’re very secure with what they are doing.”
Fort Lauderdale-based choreographer Emily Tedesco, whose work Á Morgun is one of the pieces DDTM will premiere this Saturday, nodded in agreement. “That’s true. I’m not just here with the company to set something I’ve already fixed in my head. My approach to creating dance is fundamentally collaborative.”
After all, Kronenberg says, “isn’t it time to start feeling something in ballet?”
Many of the company’s dancers at the Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance in South Dade on Tuesday echoed these thoughts. As dancer Trisha Carter described her experience working with the women choreographers showcased in the program, “I find I’m more understood and I’m treated with more patience. These choreographers have actually performed these movements and in pointe shoes. Emily can give me tips on the movements she’s asking me to do, and there’s more of an atmosphere of forgiveness when something difficult doesn’t come right away.”
Preparing to rehearse Sarasota-based Cuban choreographer Tania Vergara’s Fractales, dancer Diana Figueroa observed that “sometimes a woman can push you farther than a man because they know what you can do in pointe shoes. They push where a man might be cautious. For instance in Tania’s choreography, women provide the supports usually the men give. In some sequences we even do some lifting of Claudia,” she says referring to DDTM dancer Claudia Lezcano.
For former Miami City Ballet dancer Chloe Freytag, Vergara’s choreography is brilliant because it demands she showcase her “power woman.” The opportunity comes at an important moment, given the exchanges dancers are now having around gender and power. “Dancers are talking about this among themselves. Those conversations may not be showing up on Facebook feeds and in social media but they’re happening. This has become a normal topic among dancers,” she says.
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For Freytag, the SMDCAC program allows DDTM to show how different it is. “We are less an institution and more a dance collective,” Freytag explains. “We are a company built on that collective support. We need every single dancer to be exactly who they are in order to thrive.”
Asked how she felt to be invited to perform at the Jacob’s Pillow Festival in the Berkshires this summer, she says: “At one point in my career I squared myself to accept that I would not get to do this as a professional dancer – and now, we’re getting to do it. To be able to perform in such a beautiful space where so many huge major big names have performed... it’s very exciting.”
– Sean Erwin, Artburstmiami.com
Dimensions Dance Theatre's An Intimate Evening of Ballet Performances: Spotlight on Contemporary Female Choreographers. 3:30 p.m and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21, and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22, at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Lab Theater, 10950 SW 211st St., Cutler Bay; 786-573-5316; smdcac.org. Tickets cost $45 to $65.