In “Pie Solo,” created and performed by Pioneer Winter, the Miami-native taps his way into new creative territory. Running about an hour, Winter’s first solo piece integrates contemporary movement, tap dance and video; however, the centerpiece of the show is his monologue. It’s a risky choice, considering the dancer/choreographer has never before utilized his voice in a performance. “Pie Solo” is part of Miami Theater Center’s Sandbox Series, designed to help contemporary artists create new work. The show runs through March at MTC in Miami Shores.
Winter’s monologue raises issues about family and religion, but the piece primarily weaves a narrative that explores Winter’s identity as a gay man. Portraying himself, Winter delivers his text in a frank, sincere tone. He neither falls on his sword, nor does he hide from the audience. At times though, he loses momentum as he struggles to pace breath, vocalization and movement.
One of the unique aspects of the performance is the integration of tap dance. The 25-year-old began taking lessons when he was four. In one of the show’s most powerful scenes, Winter stands in a makeshift bathroom stall with a small video of an anonymous pair of shoes on display in the next stall. In conjunction with the video, Winter taps out a darkly humorous depiction of two strangers having sex in a public bathroom. The coordination between live tap and the dancing on the video is riveting. This is a moment where Winter’s tap dancing skills transcend performance and create a rich metaphor.
Another such moment occurs in an anecdote about his grandfather’s death. He explains that in ceremonious moments, his father would always say, “Tap dance, son.” In this poignant, yet funny segment, Winter recalls tap dancing furiously on the dock of a lake to placate his grieving father while his grandfather’s ashes blew in his face. This is a moment where the performer’s refrain: “I only want to please” fits perfectly. Often, though, it feels like a throw away line.
I would like to see Winter organize the show around a powerful metaphor such as tap dance, or as he mentions at one point, the celebration of the first quarter of his life. The show needs organizing principles that will allow for a broader scope of material. For example, he introduces some intriguing tidbits about religion and family that go undeveloped. Winter’s mother, who also tap danced, died when he was nine years old. His family, of Russian-Jewish descent, converted to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There’s also room to tighten some scenes. For example, an interactive scene where Winter gives an audience member a foot rub and “blow job” (by playing a saxophone between the man’s legs) is very humorous and serves as an effective transition to Winter’s coming out story; however, it goes on too long.
“Pie Solo” has some challenges to work out; however, Pioneer Winter’s charismatic presence and the show’s moments of clarity and humor make for an interesting performance.
A version of this review first appeared in the Miami Herald, March 19.
“Pie Solo” by Pioneer Winter runs through March 30 at the Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores; at 8:00 p.m. Friday and Saturdays; cost is $20; info: 305-751-9550, www.mtcmiami.org
Photo credit: Javi Geovanni