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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 ..
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Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an attractive lineup this season. Under the direction of Jennifer Kronenberg and her husband Carlos Guerra, DDTM will thus mark its first birthday—though in dance years that number requires multiplication.
“Sometimes I feel as if we’ve been doing this forever,” reflects Kronenberg, taking into account the myriad tasks that fill the directors’ agenda, from the morning rush toward rehearsals to slogging through emails past midnight.Even when able to delegate duties—still a rarity—the couple can’t relinquish a laser focus on their mission: to offer high-quality entertainment that draws ballet aficionados as well as new converts to the art form.
“Although it seems there just aren’t enough hours in a day,” Kronenberg adds, “at least we’ve found our rhythm.”
And these former Miami City Ballet principals know about rhythm. Having enjoyed lengthy careers on stage as audience favorites, they now apply equal commitment at the helm of their fourteen-member troupe, with whom they and occasional guest artists also perform. The co-directors, for instance, will dance Tania Vergara’s “Piazzola x 6” in the upcoming show.
“Specifically revamped for us, this duet will be accompanied by a live tango quartet,” says Guerra, who feels a special connection to Vergara. Now a Sarasota resident, the choreographer was a beloved teacher of his in Camagüey, Cuba, and they have reconnected through her recent work, which Guerra knows will spice up the company’s offerings.
Given an operating budget of around $150,000, keeping a group of gifted dancers on the payroll—and, to our benefit, on stages across South Florida—is notable enough. But providing these performers with ballets of substance such as Vergara’s boosts that accomplishment. Elevated by historical value and contemporary vigor, DDTM’s latest program—its most ambitious to date—proves sweat equity can yield remarkable results.
“When Jen called me about joining this company a year ago, I said yes without a second thought,” says Chloe Freytag, previously a Miami City Ballet member. “Getting the opportunity to dance with people I trusted and respected, I didn’t even ask about the repertory.”
Yet Freytag emphasizes that, besides great camaraderie, she’s come upon artistic growth at Dimensions. She loves stretching her classical technique in adventurous choreography, just as her roles in “Pointe of Passion” demand.The ballerina singles out Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain” as “the most fun I’ve ever had—though it’s super hard, super fast. So wild!”
This ensemble piece, with a sinuous sensuality that’s both earthy and other-worldly, made waves when the Joffrey Ballet—now of Chicago, then in New York—premiered it in 1981. The exotic score, with insistent clicks and wails from strings, elicits entrancement and unabashed eroticism. The ballet has become a signature for the company the choreographer co-founded in 1956 with his romantic partner, Robert Joffrey.
“The Joffrey has been getting works out to smaller companies to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Arpino’s passing,” explains Kronenberg, “so licensing “Light Rain” was welcomingly easy. It’s such a privilege.”
The historical import of “Light Rain” is not lost on Freytag, but she also appreciates digging into a dance guided by the choreographer in the studio, as was the case with Jerry Opdenaker’s “Bliss.”
“The movement throughout this whole piece is gorgeous, like a dream,” says Freytag. “But I especially enjoy my pas de deux because it’s argumentative, with a character-role element. The dancing seems to come from real human experience.”
To a Euro-pop soundtrack, the zing of Opdenaker’s piece represents one end of the choreographic spectrum dancer Josue Justiz Brito relishes at Dimensions; the other rests on the sparkling lyricism of Vicente Nebrada’s “Una Danza Para Ti,” a pas de deux to live piano.
“Jerry’s ballet is ultra-modern, and Nebrada’s is ultra-classical,” Cuban-born Justiz says in Spanish.
Due to his training on the island and ensuing career at Ballet Nacional de Cuba before he defected while touring Mexico, Justiz calls traditional classicism his comfort zone. This lets him bring a natural spring and stride to Nebrada’s Latino brand of neoclassicism, which earned the late Venezuelan choreographer an international reputation. Still, with jagged angles and accents, contemporary styles have cast their spell on Justiz since he came to the United States four years ago.
Adapting to artistic change can be trying for Justiz, but he admits that a tight schedule has been his biggest challenge. Kronenberg recognizes how this taxes the dancers, many of whom must juggle other obligations for extra income.
“We kill them each day with what should be a six-hour rehearsal day condensed into four hours,” she says. “There is no rest!”
Yet, similar to Freytag, Justiz gets recompense in what he labels compañerismo—a close partnership toward shared goals. “It’s wonderful that this company was dreamed up by two dancers for other dancers,” he says.“One person’s success here is everybody’s happiness.”
Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion,” Sat., Nov. 18, 8:00 p.m.; South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211 St., Cutler Bay; Info:Cost $25-$45; www.smdcac.org.
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