Dancing Baselmania

Written By ArtBurst Team
January 9, 2017 at 7:15 PM

On my eighth birthday, my parents gave as a gift a large box filled to the brim with Hello Kitty love. Bright pencils, stickers, keychains, little dolls, and figurines all jumped out at me, flooding my eyes with shapes, lines, and colors. My heart beat fast, my hands and eyes darted about digesting the excitement — grabbing and feeling the elements of discovery and surprise. Cellophane wrapping with foreign writing made up of lines and sticks covered some of the pieces. Tiny objects looked back at me, smiling and celebrating with their own signature aroma of plastic and childhood. The exuberance of the moment made me jump and dance, swirling and spinning with Hello Kitty delight. It was a crystallizing moment. Thirty years later, I reconnect to that visceral and aesthetic celebration walking in to Arsht Center’s presentation of The Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Legacy Tour this past weekend. House lights down, walking down the aisle and up onto the stage at the Ziff Opera House, my eyes darted and danced. Taking in the majestic sculpture of visual artist Daniel Arsham towering over the orchestra seats in heavenly white cubes and peaks, I am overwhelmed with happiness. Once onstage, the audience transforms into performer and audience remixed, reviewing and engaging one another through the shared experience of fascination and discovery. There is even a crazy musical wizard onsite, making sounds with homemade saws and springs, waving his hand over a theremin, using body heat and movement to travel over sound frequencies. The dancers arrive quietly and powerfully, taking their spots over three multi-leveled stages spread out across the stage. The sound of their feet and lungs at work was satisfying and inspiring as signature Merce movements leap across space into perfect arabesques, lines, and poses. I loved how the dancers would go from choreography to jogging in a circle around their dance space, eye level with the audience and resetting their starting positions, or resting, stretching, or sipping on water. What a perfect way to start to Baselmania. From Merce, I sashayed over to the black box to catch South Beach Babylon, an original play by newly formed theater troupe Zoetic stage. The highlight of the nearly three-hour experience was Octavio Campos and Rosie Herrera’s cameo performance-art/choreography in the “performance within the performanceâ€� storyline. While the play was guilty of the self indulgence it intended to comment on, Campos and Herrera’s fresh and fantastically funny duet refreshed and energized. I ended the night at Transit Lounge where Philbert Armenteros and Los Herederos were celebrating the eve of St. Barbara — syncretically known as Chango. The rumba brought out the best dancers in Miami, keeping close to the stage with authentic guaguanco steps and Yoruba chants. The following day I was able to get my own performance art on when I visited local fashion icon Karelle Levy at her booth at Scope, the Basel satellite art fair in Midtown. She and I created a collaborative performance art piece as she fitted and cut her unique, handmade, and original fabric across and through my body as onlookers took photographs. She answered questions about her on-the-spot, “quickie coutureâ€� and I left with a wearable work of art. I drove through Wynwood, eyes drinking in the murals, immersed in music blasting and championing the marriage between hip-hop aesthetics and Baselmania. It all ended perfectly when I entered the 8,000-square-foot exhibit, curated by Roger Gastman and Zio Fulcher, titled “Small Gift Miami,” celebrating 50 years of Sanrio, the makers of Hello Kitty! A long list of distinguished artists presented original Sanrio inspired works. There were Hello Kitty cars and murals and you could get original Hello Kitty tattoos by commissioned tattoo artists. It was an inner child extravaganza and I looked at the life-size Hello Kitty in the corner and sighed. Hello Kitty made everything come full circle. Originally published in the SunPost in December 2010.

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