Dance

Dimensions Dance Theatre’s season closer is a sultry end for summer

Written By Guillermo Perez
July 7, 2023 at 4:04 PM

Chloe Freytag and Josue Justiz in “Fiebre,” by Vicente Nebrada in Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami’s “Summer Dances,” at the Moss Cultural Arts Center on Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16. “Fiebre” will feature live music from Alain Garcia and The Latin Power Band. (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

One swallow does not a summer make, goes the old saying.  But a flock of dancers, akin to swallows flying toward a happy nest, can make for a glowing summer show. To confirm this, Beatriz Garcia’s “En Camino (On the Way),” referencing bird migration, joins three other dances—“Salt Water Song,” a commissioned world premiere by Marika Brussel, and repertory favorites, hot and bright—to close Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami’s performance season at the Moss Cultural Arts Center, on Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16.

“Summer Dances” stays true to our sultry latitudes and upholds Dimensions Dance Theatre’s mission to feature live music—here by Alain Garcia and The Latin Power Band, for the return of Vicente Nebrada’s “Fiebre,” with seven tart to turbulent boleros paying tribute to La Lupe, the drama queen of Cuban song. Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain, both folkloric and other-worldly glamorous, will help celebrate the choreographer’s birth centennial.

Imperative to this show, Dimensions Dance Theatre also continues to engage women choreographers. Garcia as an emerging dancemaker—and evolving human being, she’d insist—has found a welcoming place in South Florida’s familial dance company, co-directed by Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra.

Chloe Freytag and Daniel White in “Light Rain,” Gerald Arpino’s fiercely energetic masterwork, performance of the work at The Joyce Theater in NYC. (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

“I want to regale these dancers with a work that’s outside their norm but unequivocally made with them in mind,” says Garcia in Spanish. She, along with her husband Armando Brydson, will be performing in “En Camino,” pleased by the relationship they’ve built with the rest of the nine-member cast.

“I’ve explained my personal story to them,” says Garcia. “It’s important they relate this to their own, along the same range of feelings, to communicate their dreams and struggles without words.”

Though she can dip into her ballet origins for choreographic details, Garcia has guided the dancers—stalwarts of classicism—into expanding their comfort zone through floor work and tricky partnering with authentic swag.

“I welcome the challenge of having the dancers discover qualities in themselves they might not have imagined,” the choreographer declares.

Residing in Miami for less than two years, Garcia and her husband have braved a different environment forging ahead with choreographic projects. Just last summer, they were invited to perform in the International Ballet Festival of Miami by director Eriberto Jimenez after he saw them taking class in his studios. In a matter of days, the couple came up with an intense and enthusiastically received duet, “To Zero Point.”

For its “Summer Dances,” Dimensions Dance Theatre will perform Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain” in honor of the Arpino Centennial Celebration. (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

Garcia says, “It was an expression of all we had been living through—the stress, the emotions of starting life anew.” Up to this task thanks to skill and dedication, she and Brydson have not wavered from the path forward.

A graduate of Cuba’s National Ballet School and University of the Arts, Garcia carries with her all she learned at Malpaso, the highly regarded, Havana-based contemporary dance troupe with an international profile. The artist met her husband there and throughout eight years got to interpret works by choreographers of note, including Israeli trailblazer Ohad Naharin, whose Gaga method of movement spurred Garcia.

“He uses a very sensorial approach, close to our animal impulses, which I could deeply connect with and modify,” she explains. “But really each work I’ve performed has made me the artist I am today.”

And that artist is one who’s highly sensitive to the winds at her back—how they’ve helped propel her—and the highs and lows of her current creative landscape, the better to meet whatever opportunities—or obstacles, she recognizes—arise in the horizon.

Garcia left her own mark at Malpaso, with her trio “Being/Ser,” staged to fine notices, in repertory. But the spark that fired her up to choreograph came in a 2017 collaboration with Raul Reinoso for Acosta Dance. Enthusiasm for “Nosotros”—the title’s “us” accommodates various gender combinations, a fluidity Garcia encourages—took the supple dancer by surprise and nudged her toward creating more dances.

Chloe Freytag, center, Devaughn McGann, left, and Daniel_White, right, in Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain.” (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

For Garcia, the urgency of continued exploration remains primary. (“I’m at a point where I want each new piece to be different from the previous one,” she maintains.)  So, it’s no wonder that swallows—known for great-distance migrations—have long captivated her, now casting their winged shadows on “En Camino.”

“I like research and was fascinated to find out these birds adapt to changes in climate and even new constructions that pose dangers. Their tenacity connects with me. And I love that they choose a mate for life,” Garcia says.

Movement in “El Camino” is laid out in phases that Garcia refers to as chapters, posing questions: When is the right time to undertake a journey? What tools for this are necessary? Which companions merit trust in the endeavor? And how will the learning process continue in a new habitat?  Claude Debussy compositions will keep this dance aloft on airy musical currents.

Her theme, Garcia underscores, pertains not only to immigration but to any life passage. And, while finding parallels to human behavior in our feathered friends, she doesn’t deal in crude imitation.  Avian motifs remain subtle and poetic.

“I want this to be an ode to resiliency,” says the choreographer.

Turning from the skies to a coastline, audiences will encounter ancient-rooted but recognizable action in Marika Brussel’s re-interpretation of Greek myth. “Salt Water Song” surges from distilled and merged episodes in Homer’s “Odyssey,” taking us to the realm of Sirens and the nymph Calypso, who first captivated and then set the epic hero on a homeward course. The focus, however, shifts from Odysseus to female presences that a patriarchal tradition has denied their due.

Chloe Freytag and Josue Justiz in“Fiebre,” by Vicente Nebrada. “Fiebre” will feature live music from Alain Garcia and The Latin Power Band. (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

“Banished on an island, Calypso’s lonely but unapologetic. She’s not just a seductress but complicated. And the Sirens—who were they singing for?” probes the choreographer, who uses their presence like a Greek chorus to remind Calypso of her power.

“A lot of my ballets address stories of women so they have more agency,” says Brussel. “I’ve done some around myth. Now I wanted to do one also involving water—the wildness of it, how we can’t control it.”

Considering this work evokes for the Queens, New York native—at present a London resident—scenes of childhood outings to Jones Beach and awe-inspiring views of the Pacific during her time in San Francisco, memories awash in emotions any tidewater Floridian would identify with.

Now at Dimensions, a company she’s admired from afar, the choreographer wants to “make the dancers shine. I try to be collaborative in a community of artists to bring in their vision.” Such collaboration extends to the original score by Ryan Cockerham, a violinist whose music Russell discovered by serendipity on another artist’s recording.

Emily Bromberg and Brian Gomez in Beatriz Garcia’s “En Camino (On the Way).” (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

“Salt Water Song” involves a narrative that connects with Brussel’s own unusual journey through the craggy shoals and marvel-filled harbors of dance. Having studied at Joffrey Ballet School and then danced professionally since her teens, she quit the stage for almost a decade and went on to earn a graduate degree in writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

“I was searching for something to replace ballet in my life. Well, this didn’t, but it gave me a different way to tell my stories,” reflects Brussel.

After starting to dance again with Ballet Theater of New Mexico, she leaned into choreography. Her arresting 2017 piece, “From Shadows,” about the un-housed population on the urban landscape, sprung from an autobiographical text she wrote about her father’s period of homelessness.

In the range of commissions that have come Brussel’s way—at Kansas City Ballet, for example, and in association with San Francisco’s renowned ODC/Dance—raising viewer awareness has often been at play. And life at present, she notes, has made her “ever more empathetic to people who’ve come to a new place,” perfect for a show full of wanderers and wonder.

WHAT: Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami “Summer Dances”

WHEN: 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15 and 3 p.m., Sunday, July 16

WHERE: Dennis C. Moss Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211 Street, Cutler Bay

COST: $25-$45.

INFORMATION: 786-573-5300 or dimensionsdancemiami.com.

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