MIAMI DANCES BLOG
Mary Luft, Founder Tigertail Productions, Inc.
By Josie Gulliksen
Miami Dances features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene special. In this post we feature, Mary Luft, founder of Tigertail aShe speaks extensively about her history in Miami’s dance community. Luft is the founder and executive director of Tigertail Miami a 37 year-old Miami-based not-for-profit organization that is committed to the creation and presentation of new work in music, dance, poetry and the visual arts.It is a leading presenter and Florida's pioneer of innovative art activity in Miami, Florida and has worked for 26 years in international exchange.
She has co-directed two major national festivals - NEW MUSIC AMERICA held in Hartford in 1984 and Miami in 1988 and served on numerous panels and special committees throughout Florida and the U.S., and as a member of the National Performance Network Performing Americas group. She served as a Hub Site panelist for the National Dance Project of NEFA.
Luft is also the recipient of numerous grants and honors including a Fulbright Fellowship to Brazil, four Florida and three National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowships as well as numerous other NEA awards. In 2001 she received the International Woman of the Year Award, and she is a founding member of the National Association of Artists Organizations and a member of Alternate ROOTS, the Florida Cultural Action Alliance and the Florida Dance Association. She recently served as an Evaluator for Creative Capital and is currently a National Council Member of the Atlantic Center for the Arts. In 2011 she received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Miami Beach Arts Trust.
ABC: Tell us about your journey as an artist and performer?
ML: I began studying dance at the age of 4. Being next to the oldest of six children in my family I became the one in charge of family productions. All of us contributed, but I was usually in charge. So Tigertail came naturally to me at a later point in my career. Instead of going to college I attended professional dance schools, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in New York City and Edna McCrae School of Dance in Chicago, where I took 18 classes per week for four years (2 summers and 2 year round). After my studies in Chicago, I returned to my home in Sioux City, IA, got married and had my first child. In 1970 we moved to Miami. I attended Life Lab at MDC, performed in theater productions and became a member of FUSION Dance Company in the late 70s. At FUSION I shared Artistic Direction with William Lord, received NEA, St of FL and other choreography grants. FUSION was an extremely ambitious company, too early for its time. It was an incredible experience and I was able to gain first-hand experience on running a not-for-profit. After leaving FUSION I formed Mary Luft and Company, which later became Tigertail Productions.
With Tigertail we produced a 10-day New Music America Festival which encompassed commissioning a week of works for Metrorail through Art in Public Places, as well as hiring New World Symphony to perform new music at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown. Composers came from South America for and we produced concerts at churches, hotels, at Bayside Marketplace and many other venues around the city.
ABC: Who was your biggest influence in your journey to becoming founder of Tigertail Productions?
ML: The early primary influences begin with my mother who scheduled lessons for each of her six children by the best instructors available in our area, Jeanne Hecker, a dance aficionado who started the Sioux City Civic Ballet and Hazel Bergh, my ballet instructor who studied with Adolph Bolm. And taking advantage of our public library from an early age, reading avidly, and reading The NY Times. When doors are opened an individual can begin to get a sense of what is possible and where their place in the world lies.
ABC: What excites you about Miami?
ML: Miami has been and continues to be a place where it is possible to live out an idea. It is fertile ground as long as you are willing to put in long hours, move quickly, think flexibly, connect with national and international arenas and never settle for less than top quality.
ABC: Tell us about the mission, vision and most special moments in the 37 years of Tigertail?
ML: I have always wanted to bring new work to Miami, work that is forming movements, speaking to the times. I do not have special moments as each project has equal weight.
Reggie Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group cast members of CITIZEN, to be presented by Tigertail April 21-22, 2017, at Miami-Dade County
ABC: What is something awesome you are currently working on?
ML: The festival FIRE is the current Tigertail project. It is conceived in a very different way. All of April 2017 Tigertail takes on the element of fire, fire of passion and excellence, as a transformer and a force that results in civic engagement, social examination and activism. We examine how artists help re-imagine the world, and engage in the vital role artists play as critical thinkers and catalysts for interpretation and social evolution.
ABC: From your perspective, how can we leverage the arts to build a more connected community?
ML: The arts reflect our time. So, be fearless, take risks, be adventuresome, listen, travel, research, connect with others, both individuals and organizations.
Miami Dances Blog
Miami Dances is a program of the Arts & Business Council and Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs to build new audiences and outreach for our communities amazing dance community. The blog features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene unique and shine a light on some of our dance community stars.