About 20 women strong, the Venus Rising Drum and Dance Ensemble is the local cultural dance scene's female empowerment movement expressed through West African movement and rhythms. The group will headline this year's Miami World Music Festival, held from Sept. 19 to 22 at Florida International University's Wertheim Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall.
On stage, Venus Rising is colorful, high energy and highly emotive. For the festival's show titled "An African Roots Rhythmic Journey," the company plans to display new and existing choreographies that blend Israeli, Middle Eastern, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian and South African music and dance. "It's such a wonderful festival and so prestigious," says Venus' Founding Director Zeva Soroker, who started the all-female dance and drum group in 2003. "We get a full hour to show the breadth and depth of what we do. We're very excited," she says.
Now in its second year, the Miami World Music Festival features traditional, classical and contemporary music from diverse cultures. Venus Rising is among five additional acts representing music from France, Spain, Cuba, Venezuela and India. Latin Grammy-award winning jazz flautist Nestor Torres will also perform on Thursday, as part of a musical trio.
Venus Rising's show promises to showcase a medley of culture from disparate ends of the world. "We're celebrating diversity by showing the common roots that overlap with the various music and dance styles," says Soroker, a Connecticut native who lives in Coral Springs. One set begins as an Israeli folk song and Hora dance and transitions into a South African "boot" dance performed by the Children of Kuumba. A belly dance piece fades into a Polynesian fire dance. "It's very passionate, dramatic movement," says Soroker, who notes that performance-goers "love to see women doing what they don't normally do -- like drumming."
Though the popular group blends globally inspired sound and movement into its repertoire, West African percussion and dance has remained its specialty. "That will always be our base, but we want to keep adding to that," says Soroker, noting that African dance and drumming is where many members of the group got their start.
A former Barry University and Miami-Dade County school teacher, Soroker started her drumming pursuits in 2000 on a sponsored trip to Guinea, West Africa. "It was beyond my wildest dreams. It was life changing," she says. Upon returning to South Florida, she felt a calling to start an-female group of percussionist.
Similar to the group's international repertoire, the ensemble represents a mix of ages, countries and regions, including Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, Russia, Cuba and the Middle East. The youngest member is 16, while the oldest is 60. The group performs throughout South Florida at various festivals, including the Afro Roots World Music Festival.
Venus Rising performs at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday as part of the 2013 Miami World Music Festival, at FIU's Wertheim Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall, 11200 S.W. 8th St., Miami. Tickets cost $25. Visit www.miamiworldmusicfestival.com/events.
--Kai T. Hill, artburstmiami.com