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Pearl Cleage’s play “Flyin’ West,” an M Ensemble production currently on stage at the beautiful new performing arts center in Liberty City, the Sandrell Rivers Theatre, is set in humble Nicodemus, Kansas, the only remaining western town established by African Americans during the reconstruction period following the Civil War. Set in 1898, the play focuses on the lives of Sophie (Brandiss ..

Esteban, (http://estebanlapelicula.com/en/) the debut of Cuban director Jonal Cosculluela being premiered at The Miami Light Project tells the story of a 9 year old, living in Havana with his mother, who’s raising him as a single parent, and his perseverance following his dream of becoming a musician. The challenges seem overwhelming. Esteban and his mother struggle to make ends meet (htt..

Desperate times call for desperate measures. For some, that might mean taking a second or third job. Or robbing a bank. Or moving in with family. For Casey, a straight lip-syncing Elvis impersonator in a Panama City bar, desperation means forsaking the King’s rhinestone-studded jumpsuit for leg hair-hiding pantyhose, fake boobs and big-hair wigs, the better to sell himself as a fa..

Writing about “Broken Snow,” the Ben Andron thriller now getting its world premiere at the J’s Cultural Arts Theatre (JCAT) in North Miami Beach, is a proposition almost as tricky as the play itself. The intricately structured 90-minute drama is loaded with surprises, twists and turns, all revealed at precisely the right moment so that the play builds to its shattering conclusion..

As this steamy spring melts into a sweltering summer, Actors’ Playhouse is inviting theater lovers to a wedding – a big, fat Jewish-WASP wedding, otherwise known as the Broadway musical “It Shoulda Been You.” Though the show seemingly takes place in the present, the piece by book writer-lyricist Brian Hargrove and composer Barbara Anselmi is an old-fashioned, stereotype-filled throwba..

'Death & Harry Houdini' Makes Another Magical Moment at ArshtDennis Watkins knows how to make an entrance. In the House Theatre of Chicago’s “Death & Harry Houdini,” now back at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater five years after it first wowed Miami audiences, Watkins arrives onstage with the help of theater technology unknown in Houdini’s day. Dangling upside dow..

Director Carlos Lechuga’s masterful unspooling of time in his second feature film “Santa y Ándres” constructs a uniquely Cuban mix of tedium and despair, resulting in an emotionally intense experience that sneaks up on the viewer in plain sight. The film opens with the stillness of a landscape painting: the eastern Cuban countryside of 1983 – rugged, lush, and verdant. The statuesque..

Memory – deep-seated, fragile, slippery, mutable – is at the heart of Jordan Harrison’s “Marjorie Prime.” A Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2015, the play is a family tragicomedy given a sci-fi makeover; in other words, this thought-provoking theater piece charts its own, fresh path. Now getting its South Florida premiere as the second professional production from the Main Street Players, ..

The stage is a fixed space. It is the axis around which story, conflict, and character revolve. When that fixed space shifts, new possibilities emerge. Starting Wednesday, April 23, a shifting site for theater emerges at Deering Estate, a 444-acre environmental, archeological, and historical preserve along the edge of Biscayne Bay in Palmetto Bay. Four local playwrights have collaborated ..

Nearly two years ago, Miami’s Zoetic Stage took its first trip into the world of Harold Pinter with an intense, superbly acted production of the Nobel laureate’s 1978 hit “Betrayal” in the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater. Now Zoetic is delving further back into the Pinter canon with a riveting production of “The Caretaker.” This 1960 work is, like “Betrayal,” a three-character ..

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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