For Hattie Mae Williams, Miami is the ultimate performance space. Williams, a longtime dancer and choreographer, created her own style and company, the Tattooed Ballerinas, to bring movement and attention to both everyday and unique spots. Their guerrilla-style dancing began in New York subway stations and supermarkets before moving south to Williams' first home, Miami.
"Miami nurtured my young artistic self through community programming and organizations," the 33-year-old dancer and choreographer says. "I participated in Voices United, led by director Katie Christie, [and] performed and practiced community outreach at the Village under the guidance of Teo Castellanos. Both opportunities gave me insight into how art can be used as a tool to implement positive change, share my artistic voice, and comment on local and global issues."
Williams received honors in modern dance and choreography at the New World School of the Arts in Miami and attended the Fordham University/Alvin Ailey BFA program in New York, where she graduated with choreography honors. She is working on a master's in interdisciplinary arts at Goddard College in Vermont.
Williams' dance work revolves around abstract movements and narratives combined with sites where people have developed a learned interaction of how to behave in certain locations with certain objects. Culture Concrete, Williams' site-specific dance film project staged and shot at the historic Miami Marine Stadium, premiered late last year at the LAB Miami in the Wynwood Arts District. The 23-minute film captures the stadium's architecture and history and documents a time and place in Miami's culture, Williams says.
Culture Concrete is part of Williams' Miami Sites Project, a 2013 Knight Arts Challenge Miami winner that includes dance, film, music, photography, and installations. Williams says she and director of photography Christian Salazar will share the film in local theaters and public-access TV programs. "One of my goals in producing this film is to generate more awareness for the stadium, bring attention to the lack of community spaces in Miami and its importance, and have the film eventually live in a preservation or archived place for everyone to access."
Williams and her company also premiered the Miami Sites Mini Episodes series, short videos featuring guerrilla dance performances at the 2014 Miami Book Fair International. The latest episode, Urban Jelly, was filmed in an unused lot in Wynwood, where Williams and three others dance inside the overgrown plant life. Other sites include Target, a local bus stop, an abandoned church, and a sculpture in Miami's Design District. Williams will present Culture Concrete and Mini Episodes at Artopia this year. Viewers will see how the sites filmed influenced the movement and vice versa.
"I'm very interested in the historical aspect of a space and how it's being used now; that's the starting place," Williams says. "After that, it becomes a commentary on human spaces, building on how they're not being utilized. I'm also interested in looking at how dance and art can be performed in nontraditional spaces, where it's more of an interaction with the community. Some people don't have access to certain spaces or can't afford to go to the theater."
Arts network Ovation TV followed Williams after Art Basel to catch another site-specific performance, this time at an abandoned church in Miami. That episode will air on Ovation within the next couple of months, Williams says. The episodes will be a continuous project for the Tattooed Ballerinas, who maintain their mission of independent dance.
"I was brought into dance by music, my mother, remembering," Williams says. "I was looking for my tribe of fellow storytellers, activists, and movers."
This year's three MasterMind Award winners will be announced February 26 at Artopia, our annual soirée celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit newtimesartopia.com.
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