Bistoury Theatre's latest production, Tribe, explores homelessness. It's an intimately familiar topic for the troupe's cofounder Alexey Taran, who lived life on the streets firsthand.
Born in Santa Clara, Cuba, in 1970, Taran grew up in Havana and graduated from the Cuban National Ballet School before spending two years as a dancer in the Cuban National Ballet Company. His decision to leave Cuba for Caracas, Venezuela, in 1991 led to months of desperate living without a home.
As he struggled to start his career, Taran lived on the streets before moving into a car. Eventually, he found work at a dance company, which helped him find a place to live. "When I was homeless in Venezuela, it was something that touched me," he says.
Soon it became an inspiration for his art. "I was very depressed, seeing those people on the streets," he says. "The loneliness they live, sometimes the pain they carry — we wanted to make a piece of work, a piece of art, of this life. We wanted to honor the life of those people."
In 2005, Taran cofounded his company, Bistoury Theatre, with his partner, Carla Forte, who is primarily a filmmaker. The physical theater group combined their talents, mixing movement, dance, and film to present live performances that put social issues in context.
The two made their way to South Florida in 2007 after earning a Guggenheim Fellowship and began looking for stories in their new hometown. "In Miami, everything looks beautiful and perfect, but there is another side, a darker side," Taran says. "I think our work leans toward the darker side of Miami, the real side of Miami."
That exploration has led to quick success for Bistoury, which has staged live performances in Miami, New York, and Santo Domingo. Its film projects, meanwhile, have found equal acclaim. Urban Stories, which follows the journeys of several immigrants adjusting to life in Miami, was awarded best movie, best screenplay, and best cinematography honors at the Bootleg Film Festival in Toronto in 2012.
Tribe, their latest project, translates the world of the homeless into a new language through body gestures and includes participation by the Miami homeless community.
Taran says he'll continue drawing inspiration from the Magic City. "When you're walking on the street, downtown for example, you can hear the sounds of the street, you can hear music from a Latin place selling coffee. Everything that surrounds us becomes part of our films, and everything from our films becomes part of our memory."
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