Entering the Inkub8 space in Wynwood for an evening of Pradera & Collaborators, I was transported to the early days of New York’s avant garde scene. The set of “Looking Back,” created by Glexis Novoa, a simultaneous nod to Alan Kaprow’s 18 Happenings in 6 Parts and a homemade fort, with Gustavo Matamoros’ ambient sound, established the tone for a piece where memories are abstracted through movement and sound. Pradera, a dancer/choreographer who moved to Miami from Spain, joined by Ilana Reynolds, explored loss through subtle gestures and challenging partnering that showcased the dancers’ strength and fearlessness.
An “exploration of the body as a container [for]… trauma,” “Looking Back” was most effectively realized through the performers’ changing relationship, trading off as each other’s support, or instigators triggering emotional explosions expressed through aggressive choreography initiated by the limbs. Pradera’s entwinement of Reynolds with the yarn, forcing her to negotiate through restriction, was a particularly moving portrayal of how trauma adheres to the body. “Looking Back” demonstrated a wealth of Pradera’s intricate movement vocabulary. But much of this choreography, staged behind Novoa’s frame-like structure, was difficult to see. Moreover, I wished the piece had ended on the quiet moment when both performers crouched in the fort, rocking methodically.
The final section, where Pradera treaded precariously on a pile of ice before the dancers suspended each other to gesture toward the projections of family photos on the wall, was too sentimental, suggesting that Pradera didn’t trust her audience, or herself, by making her intentions so explicit they bordered on cliché.
Pradera’s minor weaknesses in “Looking Back” were amplified in “Think Like a Guy,” an underdeveloped work that exposed the objectification of women in Latino and American cultures. While Liliam Dooley’s layered costumes, the bras made of two-liter soda bottles designed by Glexis Novoa, and the pedestrian set signaled that something unexpected might happen, not enough did. The captivating Priscilla Marrero played the Latina seductress, beginning in high heels on which she teetered, squashed tomatoes, and strangled the more androgynous Pradera. “Think Like a Guy”’s supposedly ironic take on gender stereotypes was too obvious — the “tight rope walk” of gender conformity motif and the mannequin duet, where Pradera (who eventually embodied the ogling male) does all the manipulation, were nothing new.
The piece succeeded when it was less self-conscious and forgot about its audience, with Marrero’s contemplative solo on the long table; or when Pradera danced mostly from her arms, moving seamlessly from the sign of the cross to fingering an invisible woman. The piece ended abruptly when Reynolds invited the performers to a few beers. While the moment felt forced, I applauded the attempt, wanting more of the “everydayness” it hinted at.
Essentially, in the case of both pieces, it’s mostly a matter of editing Pradera’s plethora of ideas. As a voice in Miami’s burgeoning experimental performance scene, she builds on both the avant garde and a modern dance tradition that relies on strong movement vocabulary—a task certainly worth its challenges. Miss-steps aside, Pradera is definitely someone to watch.