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Brilliance in Our Backyard: Rosie Herrera Awarded Inaugural Knight Choreography Prize

Written By Gina Margillo
June 19, 2024 at 12:59 PM

Rosie Herrera, Miami choreographer and dancer has just received the inaugural Knight Choreographer Award. Photo credit Jared McEntire.

We’re so fortunate to have phenomenal artists in Miami, and sometimes we need to be reminded of the artistic rigor that exists in our backyards. Last week, Rosie Herrera, Miami choreographer and Artistic Director of the Rosie Herrera Dance Theater, became the inaugural recipient of the Knight Choreography Prize from the National Center for Choreography-Akron. This was just such a reminder.

Herrera’s approach to choreography provides exceptional insight and originality, setting new standards and raising the bar for future choreographers. The NCCAkron award, made possible by the Knight Foundation award serves as evidence of what many in her cohort already knew. “She’s a genius,” said Beth Boone, Executive Director of the Miami Light Project.  She went on to say, “Like no other, she has captured and embodies a unique Miami aesthetic. Her work mirrors the wild juxtapositions of this place that we know as ‘the 305’. The on-stage worlds she creates are at once profound and whimsical, and magically reflect a place of extreme contrasts and frequent paradox.”

Herrera’s body of work shows consistent ability to incorporate accumulated, embodied knowledge into works that transcend literality, capture the essence of the ephemeral, and create a visceral response. Raised in a Cuban, Catholic household in Hialeah, and educated at the New World School of the Arts, she seamlessly weaves her cabaret, burlesque, opera and hip hop experience together with a touch of drag, soap opera, and dream therapy. Her genius lands in her ability to synthesize these cultural and emotional contexts so that they feel universal and joyful.

In the genius department, generosity and open heartedness may be considered soft skills, but they are another aspect of Herrera’s brilliance. She’s an artist who cares for and gives back to her community, and she takes this stewardship seriously. Herrera explains that the sense of community in Miami is very different from most places. “In the dance space, there’s mutual support and we genuinely celebrate each other’s successes. I am deeply committed to supporting and inspiring, and to being inspired by all the ways Miami artists express themselves.”

That support is palpable to those who have collaborated with Herrera. Miami multidisciplinary artist Roxana Barba recalls, “Rosie creates trust and then guides you through a process of self discovery that connects you to her in a deep way that is always so much bigger than dance.” Choreographer Liony Garcia deeply appreciates her “nuanced and masterful” guidance and said, “When working with Rosie, I find myself engaging in deep introspection and boundless creativity. She fosters an atmosphere of unrestrained imagination, where anything is possible and allows the performer to express openly, transcending the limitations of our daily lives.”

Rosie Herrera is an award-winning dancer and choreographer. Photo credit Adam Reign.

Her artistry has garnered accolades that came with opportunities to travel, such as a 2024 Guggenheim choreographic fellowship, and commissions by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Santa Barbara Dance Theater, Houston Met Dance, Boston Dance Theater, the American Dance Festival, and New York’s Ballet Hispanico. But Miami is where her heart is, and she has a lot to say about its place in the arts. Herrera says, “With this award, I have an opportunity to bring attention to our dedicated local artists and to resist the narratives that suggest we don’t already have what we need in Miami. We don’t need new coffee, we have Cafe Cubano and we are fine. It’s also what attracts others to come here.”

This award includes $30,000 in unrestricted cash as well as an additional $20,000 in programming funding for, in the words of NCCAAkron, “essential time and space for the creative process, for research, and for rigorous play and positive failure.” For audiences, this means more shapeshifting and genre-bending work from Herrera to look forward to.

Herrera’s next dream milestone is to be anchored as a resident company at one of Miami’s cultural centers, as part of a seasonal curatorial program. “In this way,” she says, “I won’t have to leave Miami so often and I can offer my dedicated dancers, some who have been with me for 16 years, some stability.”

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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