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May’s “Mujeres” series of strong, multi-faceted, women-focused productions, commissioned for Miami Theater Center’s SandBox space, concludes with Spanish-born dancer-choreographer Carlota Pradera’s presentation of “Volcanic.”
With support from Knight Foundation arts grants, the SandBox has served up dozens of experimental works by ambitious and daring talents – mostly Miami-based. In January, 2017 intrepid dancer-choreographer Lazaro Godoy and artistic partner Pradera performed together in “ArMOUR,” his story of an entrapped, armor-plated character, unsheathed by the power of love. This time, Pradera takes the creative lead. Her haunting production dares to meld Nordic folklore, autobiography and oblique references to contemporary political dynamics.
Backed by intrepid production talents, who support the drama’s shifting moods of exploration, meditation and peril, Pradera – always an adventurer – has created a dance/installation for two, not-exactly-human personae engaged in an extended struggle. While choreography was still in flux during workshop, the central vision was crystallizing.
First viewed atop a mountain of stacked foam blocks – spookily illuminated, the heroine (Pradera) hesitatingly clambers down. Deep booming horns and sounds of crackling ice accompany her descent to the stage floor, where her nemesis lurks menacingly in the darkness – at some distance.
Pradera explains that her character first moves “as if it has an embryonic coating, like a baby animal.” Along the way, she continues, “these layers start peeling off until we get to the most inside – to the volcanic.” Her antagonist, played by musician-dancer Christy Garcia, who adopts the guise and movements of a Spider Witch, binds and captures her. “I have cast Carlota's character into banishment, and now [she] is going to try to fight her way to her homeland, and I don't want to let her do that,” Garcia explained. “I want to keep her outcast, but under my control.”
The Spider Witch’s Machiavellian malevolence is heightened by Ana María Morales’ evocative costuming and dynamic lighting design. Swathed in a tangle of ragged red fabric, Garcia engages Pradera in physical and psychological battle. The dancers’ emotional states are mirrored in visual and sonic evocations of ice, rock, fire, water and fire.
Federico Jes Bonacossa’s multi-channel soundscape contributes ever-shifting moods, rhythms and textures. He deftly blends recorded and live instrumental music, natural and electronic sounds and piercing screeches by the performers – in a nuanced mix. The dancers’ stalking, feints and cathartic engagement play out against an expansive set, primarily realized by visual artist Robert McKnight and brother Donald. Its glistening wall composition, fabricated with draped and folded paper rolls and mirror mylar suggest a jagged, windblown, glacial vista and dripping cave. It stretches between the “ice mountain” and a “lava pool.” McKnight describes his process as a fluid “call and response” dynamic, mixing premeditated design with spontaneity.
The drama culminates against the “heart core” of the backdrop, explains Pradera. Garcia adds, “When they come face-to-face and Carlota’s character is playing for her life, she realizes that the Spider is there to help her transition.” Both have transformed through their encounters; stereotypes of good and evil are questioned, as they discover they have more in common than they knew.
To say more would spoil the denouement that awaits audiences in the May 26 premiere.
“Volcanic’ performances begin at 8:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays May 26-27, June 2-3 and June 9-10, Miami Theater Center’s SandBox, 9806 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores; tickets $25. 305-751-9550. www.mtcmiami.org
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