April 1 kicks off the annual Miami Dance Festival 2012, a six-week event that runs through May 13. The festival offerings include site-specific works, performances, workshops, film, a writing-for-dance workshop, and a festival closing family day event.
The Environmental Dance Performance and reception opens the festival at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, on Sunday. Our own Momentum Dance Company will perform an outdoor program inspired by the garden setting and the art installations within it. The company also performs their spring season concert on April 7 at the Colony Theatre. The program includes Gravity, a new contemporary work by Katie Sopoci; Doris Humphrey’s historic 1928 work Water Study; and Company Director Delma Iles’ Pots and Pans set to traditional Bluegrass music as well as her Brecht Suite, a solo Surface of the Moon, and a new world premiere.
Miami Beach Cinematheque is another participating partner in the festival this year, offering a viewing on April 18 of Matthew Diamond’s 1998 documentary, Paul Taylor: Dancemaker. This Academy-Award nominee for Best Documentary illuminates the 40-plus years of this dynamic and historical choreographer and the Paul Taylor Dance Company, a cornerstone of the American heritage of modern dance. Prior to the screening, there will be a talk with Francie Huber, who is prominently featured in the film and will share her experience as a Paul Taylor dancer.
Ilisa Rosal, artistic director of Ballet Flamenco La Rosa, conducts a Flamenco workshop on April 21 at PAN (Performing Arts Network), and her company will also be performing during the festival on April 29 at Hialeah High School. On April 26 the festival also hosts the Florida Dance Theater, which returns from Lakeland for its fourth year under the artistic direction of Carol Krajacic-Erkes. The company will perform a contemporary dance program including two new works at the Botanical Garden.
Neil de la Flor, of the Knightarts Blog and Artburstmiami, conducts a Writing About Dance workshop on May 4. The event, sponsored by Miami Dade College Department of Arts and Philosophy, will be hosted at the school’s Wolfson Campus. Dancers from Momentum and Ballet Flamenco will perform short selections in several dance styles for participants to write about. De la Flor will lead them through a series of exercises with discussion and feedback.
Back at Hialeah High on May 5, Momentum presents The Next Generation, an informal performance of new work by the company’s dancers and selections from their repertory.
And finally on May 13 the festival closes where it began, at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden with the Festival Family Day performance of The Tiger and the Brahmin. The production features authentic Bollywood dance by Momentum’s dancers as they bring to life this popular Indian fable. Indian dance students of Geeta Dias also join the company for the event.
Finally on May 13 the festival closes where it began, at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden with the Festival Family Day performance of The Tiger and the Brahmin. The production features authentic Bollywood dance by Momentum’s dancers as they bring to life this popular Indian fable. Indian dance students of Geeta Dias also join the company for the event.
Delma Isles, Momentum’s director and the force behind this annual event, answered some questions about the festival:
Q: There are a few events happening at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. What inspired you to have events outside of a traditional box theater?
The opening event at the garden uses dance and movement as a refined means of looking closely at the natural environment as well as the giant art installations provided by [art group] Irreversible. The dancers derive inspiration from the shapes, movements, arrangements, and empty area of the garden environment. They give the audience permission to experience their surroundings in a physical and interactive way. Dancers make on the spot, moment-to-moment decisions about the way in which they will move and how it connects to each other and their surroundings. This process is akin to jazz musicians improvising on a musical theme. They may venture far out into abstraction, but will eventually return to the theme.
Q: Momentum’s Spring Season concert includes your new world premiere. What can you share with us about it?
The time spent in creation is very fragile and fluid. Many ideas evolve and transform while one is in process, so attempting to define something that is not yet fixed usually feels like taking out a loan against property that you don’t own yet. It also feels like one might be jinxing the process by creating expectations in a particular direction too soon. The idea that I am playing with, though, is one of women having to, needing, to be superwomen … But even superwomen have doubts and crumble sometimes.
Q: The company is performing Humphrey’s Water Study. How did the dancers respond to giving new life to this legacy of modern dance history?
Water Study is always a profound pleasure and an intensive learning experience to set on a group of dancers. Momentum originally performed the work in 1985 and has been performing on and off every few years since then, making it one of our signature works.
Water Study was a breakthrough work when it was created and still looks astonishingly contemporary today. I have learned more from Water Study than any other dance I have ever worked with…. Even today, it is still considered by critics and historians to be one of the most successful attempts ever made to bring the human body into pure abstraction.
Q: The closing Festival Family Day showcases The Tiger and the Brahmin. What inspired you to use story and dance from classical Indian tradition?
My trip to Mumbai in 2009 to study classical Indian dance partly inspired the creation of this work; but also we like to offer children’s programming on a wide range of topics — Florida’s coral reefs, traditional fairytales, math, sports, among others — and we strive to create works that are equally engaging for boys and girls alike. The colorful costumes were made in India and beautiful masks for each character were created by Marilyn Skow, chair of the Department of Theater at FIU.
The Miami Dance Festival runs from Sunday through May 13; some events are free but reservations are recommended. For specific details on times, locations, and tickets, go to www.momentumdance.com; 305-358-7002.
Photo: Momentum performs at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden