Dance Now Springs to the Season
At 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 22, hundreds of people were descending on South Florida for Ultra Fest, the Sony-Ericsson Open, and spring break festivities on the beach. In a world apart and oblivious to the vehicular chaos, the eight members of Dance Now Ensemble (DNE) — the six dancers that make up the company and co-directors Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini — were hard at work all day on their upcoming presentation Songs of Spring, which will premiere on Friday, March 29 at The Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road. It was the last hour of a full day of rehearsals and company class at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, where the company is in residence. The dancers were in the center of one of the building’s dance studios. In two circles of three people each, the dancers were rehearsing what looked like a blossoming flower. “As cheesy as this might sound, this needs to be grandiose!” exclaimed Salterini. To which Baumgarten added, “imagine a Busby Berkeley musical.” And you could picture Busby high on a crane filming the geometric explosion of a water ballet or the blossom of many a chorus girl in feathers. Once performed to satisfaction, the cast of young, sweaty talents was excused for a short break before running the whole piece. “Take your pee, take your water, and take your shoes off. When do you want your toes to split? The night of dress or today?” And on that quip from Baumgarten, the studio emptied for a moment. The stage may be the place where a dance is dressed in costumes and made up in light, but the studio is the real sacred space where the dance is birthed, shaped, nurtured, disciplined and then finally set free to greet the world. Songs of Spring is much like that, celebrating the triumphant awakening of all glorious and youthful things. During the run-through Salterini directs the company to “open your eyes, smile, discover the world with your bodies…see what’s happening.” Conceived to commemorate the week shared by both Passover and Easter this year, which falls during DNE’s spring concert, Baumgarten says, “both holidays celebrate life’s renewal.” Themes of spring and of flora bursting from hibernation dominate the choreographic translation. The piece is set to one of Mozart’s most popular serenades, “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” or “A Little Night Music,” which will be performed live during the concert by the South Beach Chamber Ensemble under the direction of Michael Andrews. Instantly recognizable from the opening fanfare, this piece of music seems to exist for the sake of music itself and rejoices in a celebratory tenor. The four movements were danced with such commitment that one of the ballerina’s bobby pins flew from her hair like a projectile. The piece may look deceptively effortless because the dancers are so strong, but in truth it is a very difficult piece, with many quick changes in direction and petit allegro warping at full speed into lifts and quirky hip undulations. The dance could be a segment in Disney’s Fantasia with great illustrative elegance paired to flourishes of whimsy. It is reminiscent of the fleet footedness and interactions of Paul Taylor’s Arden Court with the one-to-one musical relationship of Mark Morris’ Gloria. Listening to Baumgarten and Salterini count out a waltz beat or snap and clap the precise turns in a canon, you become aware that nothing is left to chance and every single note and rest has been mapped out, translated, and executed. The directors prepare their dancers throughout the rehearsal process and especially in company class to become flexible, with different syncopation, qualities, and dynamics of movement and music. Their meshed backgrounds in rhythmic jazz, contemporary and classical ballet, Graham and Limon are ingredients introduced in class time that ultimately informs the rehearsal process. And in this case in particular, Baumgarten adds, “with live musicians it becomes extremely important to know where the notes are because the tempo may change from the recorded version you get used to in the studio.” To which Salterini added an anecdote from his earlier days, “You could always tell if the Maestro of the orchestra was in a hurry because the run through and rehearsal would end about 30 minutes earlier than the night before.” The program will also include Salterini’s 7 Duets in 7 Movements, which includes his previously choreographed duets presented together, and Baumgarten’s exploration of relationships covering new ground, in a departure from her usual edginess, in 8 Actions of Love. Songs of Spring will be presented Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30 at 8:00 p.m. at The Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; Tickets cost $35; dancenowmiami.org, 305-975-8489 or The Colony Theatre, 305-674-1040.