When Miami Contemporary Dance Company artistic director Ray Sullivan decided to research the life of migrant workers for his new piece, Harvest Voice, he was more interested in the workers’ dreams than in the working conditions in the Homestead fields. “As we know there are no borders for dreams,” he says. “It’s the one thing you can’t control.”
The interviews were part of the research process that always informs the choreographer’s work. “I usually take about a year and a half of working on something conceptually before I begin to make the movement phrases,” Sullivan explains.
His approach was far from obvious. “The first question I asked everyone was what their favorite color was when they were a child, which I think surprised them,” Sullivan says. “I wanted people to go back in their heads to when they were younger and compare their dreams then to what their dreams are today.”
The answers were surprising too. “In one of the interviews, I said, ‘Take a second if you need to focus on what your dreams are,’” Sullivan recalls, “And the woman said, ‘I don’t need to focus at all. As migrants, we moved around a lot when I was a kid, all over the south of the country. I would love to go back to some of the schools and churches that I went to as a kid because that was where I played with all my friends.”
Harvest Voice captures these bittersweet memories of life on the road, opening a window onto the lives of the people who pick our food, yet we rarely see. His dancers leap and fall, then nestle tenderly into each others bodies. During one section, they are confined by low wooden boxes that look like planters, then burst out of that confinement. “I work abstractly,” he explains. “All I want to do is document within my own poetic voice what a certain situation is.”
See Harvest Voice begins this week at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Colony Theatre (1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach). Tickets cost $20 to $35. Call 305-865-6232 or visit miamicontemporarydance.net.
Originally published in the Miami New Times in November 2010.