The work of three Miami choreographers, each with radically distinct visions of movement and dance, will be presented this Thursday and Friday at Miami Dade College’s Live Arts Lab. Each choreographer, all of them women, explores the relationship between performers and audiences. Or, as choreographer Rosie Herrera puts it: “I am interested not only in increasing the vulnerability on both sides, but refining it.”
Herrera’s work, Tropical Depression, with its juxtapositions of absurdity and heartbreaking moments, may be the most emotionally demanding piece of the evening. It is certainly the show’s most theatrical work. Herrera began her career at the age of 16 as a showgirl at a Calle Ocho theater that featured cabaret. “I was the world’s shortest showgirl,” she recalls.
Today, more than a decade later, those cabaret roots heavily influence her work. Another inspiration was Herrera’s friendships with fellow performers on Calle Ocho, deep in the heart of Miami’s cubanismo, that pushed her relationship with Cuba and the Caribbean to the forefront in her questions and creations. Herrera says she seeks “to deconstruct Cuban iconography and to understand where those icons live in my body.”
To call her choreography “poignant,” with its wild costuming, slapstick, and still points, is to do it a great injustice. Indeed, so inventive is her work that the New York Times called Herrera “the Pina Bausch of South Beach,” referring to the late choreographer who collaborated with and inspired Federico Fellini and Pedro Almodóvar.
Herrera’s reputation is growing nationally. A year ago, her company performed in New York’s sacred sanctuary of dance, the Joyce Theater. She has been touring for most of the past year. Still, she has no thoughts of leaving Miami. “This city is my creative home. To create here, where my work is deeply understood, is nothing less than soul-affirming.”
If Herrera’s work is wild and woolly, the choreography of Ana Mendez, presented in the same program, is eerily quiet. Mendez, like Herrera, will ask questions related to the relationship that performers have with their audiences. Specifically, what does it mean to see or to be seen?
Mendez is well known in the Miami community for her site-specific work, much of it presented outdoors and in the city’s gardens. In all her work, Mendez focuses on transformation and uses the body as a vehicle for exploring the spirit. She's most interested in what she calls her “state-specific” work. She asks her dancers to take their movements so personally, so deeply into their bodies, that they reach, in effect, altered states. As a piece is developed, she often asks her dancers to literally dream with the movement and its images.
At the Live Arts Lab show, Mendez will present Laborers. The labor she is referring to is her own during childbirth.
“It seemed like such a great idea in theory,” Mendez says, “but after having lived the enormity of labor and birth, how to begin to find shapes and movement that could do it justice?”
The work looks closely at not only birth but also death — that of the old self, or, as Mendez puts it, “me versus myself.”
Adele Myers, the event’s third choreographer, describes her work, The Stage Show, as “a live love story between performers and audience.” Her task, she says, “is to harness the mercurial energy of an audience.” Far from the carnival or the meditation seen in the work of the other women, Myers’ work is all about energy, with bursts of stunning athleticism. She refers to her dancers as “athletes of the heart.”
Myers moved to Miami after years with her company based in the Northeast. Rather than missing the long-standing cultural institutions there, she describes being “electrified by the energy of Miami.”
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This work, more modest in scope than much of Myers’ previous choreography, uses that energy as well as her trademark humor to zero in on questions related to support systems. What are our expectations for one another? her choreography asks. What does it mean to support one another? It’s hard to imagine a more timely question.
— Elizabeth Hanly for Artburst Miami
Tropical Depression, Laborers, and The Stage Show. 8 p.m. Thursday, May 9, and Friday, May 10, at Live Arts Lab, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami; mdclivearts.org. Tickets cost $10.
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