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Baba Israel and MDC Live Arts Summer Lab


Photo: Baba Israel
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It’s 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and 12 artists are being led through a warm up by New York-based theater artist Baba Israel. They reply to his command with twists and bends, finding complimentary motion in a partner across the room. An organic call erupts from one, and the others answer in response.

Such is the process during MDC Live Arts second annual month-long Live Arts Lab, created to offer Miami-based artists the opportunity to deepen their craft through rigorous study with master artists.

“Education is such a big part of MDC Live Arts, especially being based at Miami Dade College,” says Kathryn Garcia, MDC Live Arts Executive Director. “We wanted to expand on the education opportunities we already offer with something deeper. Something that would provide opportunities for our local artists to have experiences that challenges themselves and experiment with the creation of new work.”

In its first year, choreographer Nora Chipaumire explored the process of creating work -- asking participating artists: What is your voice as artists, what are you telling me and why should I care?

This year, Israel focuses on personal narrative and archive in performance. “We explore writing, spoken word, verse, as well as creating text through improvisation, recording, and collaboration,” he explains. Classes have seen the participants mixing physical exercises, working with original writings and bringing a theatrical element to dramatizations of stories from their lives.

“We are focused on developing a personal ethic when working with personal narratives, a philosophy on what each artist’s intention is around real stories and real life,” Israel says. “There’s been a lot of group development work, it’s a good chance for them to look at creating solo journeys.”

The artists participating in the Lab are a diverse representation of the creative voices that are defining Miami’s artistic narrative. Not limited to performing artists, the class includes visual artists with limited previous performance experience.

“I enjoy the diversity,” says Israel, who, when not teaching the Lab, has been developing a new theater piece, The Spinning Wheel, which premieres in London this November. “Having a class full of artists with such a broad range of disciplines and experiences removes any preconceived notions; there’s a freedom here. Everyone is willing to take chances, because it’s all slightly out of their comfort zone.”

One such artist stepping out of her comfort zone for this program is Miami-based dancer/choreographer Ivonne Batanero, who agrees. “From day one, I knew this was going to be good. I have taken many workshops and many times I find myself only learning a couple of new things; but in this program, I have been learning so much about so many other aspects of performance and theater that my experience has been one of the best ever.

“This was an opportunity to explore and find out if I have it in me to be able to create something like a one-woman show, a way to see what it felt like to be Ivonne the poet, spoken word artist and one-woman theater performer. Everything I learn is only going to enrich my work as a performer, dancer and choreographer.”

This year’s Live Arts Lab culminates with a free work-in-progress showing on Thursday, Aug. 28. All of the class participants -- including Israel -- will present work in an evening that will include samples of the solo performances they have been developing during the four-week intensive, as well as a bit of group imrov.

In addition to their annual summer Lab, MDC Live Arts plans to offer mini-labs during their performance season. For the 2014-2015 season, they are planning to offer two programs, a Wordpress workshop on Sept. 20, which will allow artists to learn about the popular blogging system and how they can utilize it for their own Websites and creative enterprises, and a week-long workshop on concepts of devised theater with the Texas-based theater company, Rude Mechanicals, in February 2015.

MDC Live presents Live Arts Lab Open Studio with Baba Israel, 6:00 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28; Prometeo Theater, MDC Wolfson Campus, downtown; 300 N.E. 2nd Ave., Miami. For more information, 305-237-3010, or www.mdclivearts.org.

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