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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

Brazzdance New Work Dances into Diversity and Beyond


Photo: Photo credit: Toddy Holland
Written by: Mia Leonin
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The process of creating “Shade,” choreographer Augusto Soledade’s latest full-length work, has been one of remembering and reconfiguring memory to discover new ways of talking about identity through dance. The piece that premieres this Wednesday at the Gleason Room on Miami Beach began with a memory from Brazilian-born Soledade’s teenage experience as an exchange student in McFarland, Wisc. As one of only two people of color in the entire school, Soledade froze the day one of his school friends turned to him and asked, “What are you?”

“I remember that there were about three of us, just hanging out and talking outside the school,” Soledade recounts, “and one of them told a joke -- one of those offensive jokes about black people -- but right after the joke, maybe because I was not really laughing, he turned to me and asked, ‘What are you?’” This was the first time Soledade, who identifies as Afro-Brazilian/African-American, had been confronted with his racial and ethnic identity. “I couldn’t answer right away, and started to tell them about all the different ethnic groups in my family.”

That “what are you?” question was a jumping off place for Soledade’s newest creation. Using improvisation, he turned the question to the dancers in his company, Brazzdance, many of whom have had similar experiences.

One of the movement expressions Soledade utilizes for exploring and performing identity in “Shade” is “voguing,” a dance form that comes out of the 1980s’ Harlem ballroom dance scene. Voguing allows for highly stylized, unabashed expressions of self. Interestingly, Soledade likens voguing to contemporary culture’s obsession with selfies: “I felt that voguing and selfies were connected in that they both serve as a vehicle through which we can choose how to present ourselves to the world.”

Soledade incorporated a few elements of voguing in “Shade” – hand gestures, cat walk, duck walk, and floor performance – but his end goal was to find new ways of reinterpreting vogue and incorporating it into contemporary dance. He is also interested in moving beyond ethnicity and race to large expressions of identity: “I was born and raised in Brazil, but I have always been interested in the world and people around the world. I can sincerely say that when I am creating work I am always taking into consideration our shared humanities.”

Soledade discovered in the process of creating “Shade” how little control we have over so many aspects of our identity: “Many things about us are determined while we are still in the womb, the family you are born into, your physical traits, the place where you’re born, etc., so I start the piece referencing that quiet moment when we are in our mother’s womb. Kind of like the quiet before the storm.”

Always interested in collaboration Soledade, invited Jessica Muñiz-Collado, a music professor at Nova Southeastern University, to compose an original score for “Shade.” Visual artist Kandy Lopez has created a backdrop to represent the idea of unity within diversity.

Brazzdance presents“Shade,”Wednesday and Thursday, May 24, 25 at 8:30 p.m., the Gleason Room, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. General admission $25, Miami Beach residents $20, Students $15, Friday night VIP reception $50; brazzdance.com; 786-338-5488.

 


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About The writer

Dance writer and theater critic, senior lecturer in English Composition, University of Miami

Mia Leonin is the author of two books of poetry, Braid and Unraveling the Bed (Anhinga Press), and the memoir, Havana and Other Missing Fathers (U..

About the Writer

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