From Sensual Spectacles to Pounding Chests
Artburst Exclusive December 14, 2010 What do Farber Foundry, Michelle Ellsworth, Shen-wei Dance Arts, Joe Goode Performance Troupe, Susan Sontag, Rosas Dance Company, and the Kronos Quartet all have in common? They have all been participants of Miami-Dade College’s Cultural Affairs Department notable Cultura del Lobo Series. The series, which has played an integral role in the evolution of Miami’s performance scene, is now celebrating its 20th anniversary season. The ferocious title, literally Culture of the Wolf, was conceived as a play on the name of the MDC downtown campus — Wolfson. Like its name suggests, it seeks to convey a sense of adventure in the traditional and contemporary landscape. The Cultura del Lobo Performance Series is dedicated to taking risks with works by artists from North America, South America, and the Caribbean; work that might not otherwise be seen. According to Elizabeth Doud, artistic director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, the hope is “that audiences see something they have never seen before, that they discover the value of new voices and languages … that they find excellence in new forms and trust the unheard a little more.” Though Miami-Dade College would like to present more of the many deserving works it discovers, budget constraints force it to choose a handful of performances. With only six painstakingly selected presentations, each one promises to deliver the oomph that has become synonymous with the annual Cultura del Lobo lineup. The series is as vital to Miami as it is to the national performance scene. “With so many recent losses in the dance world, Merce, Pina … uncovering the artists that will propel the performance machine forward is extremely important,” explains Adriana Perez, Cultural Projects Administrator for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs. “Cultura del Lobo is a conduit for these new artists.” The series roves throughout county’s venues and includes dance, theater, and music. This season opened with a production by the Tania Perez-Salas Compañia de Danza, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Mexican choreographer Perez-Salas’ work, which has been described by Doud as “full of stealth, sensuality, conviction, and irreverence,” has been on the presenter’s radar for some time. Its presence on the roster this year honors Mexico’s bicentennial. The performance was chock full of spectacle, including enormous sets, water, and impressive technical feats that could only be supported by a venue like the Ziff Ballet Opera House. In November, Cultura del Lobo brought Culture Clash in America to the stage. Culture Clash’s Real People, Real Stories featured “performance collages” adapted from real interviews with people across America. If you’ve missed these performances, fret not. There is more to come in the New Year. In January, the series will feature Women of Calypso, a showcase of music and song from the English-speaking Caribbean performed by Singing Saundra, Queen Fayola, and Princess Kizze at the William and Joan Lehman Theater on MDC’s North Campus. February follows with the Cuban musical duo Gema y Pavel’s Ofrenda Borinquen, a new album dedicated to Puerto Rican composers and song writers. It closes at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in April, with Brazilian vocalist, Lenine, aka Brazil’s “answer to Prince.” But back to dance. The March performance of Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People’s The Last Meadow at Miami Beach’s Byron Carlyle Theater is a must-see. The Last Meadow mines movement and text from James Dean’s films East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Claudia La Rocco writes, “At a time when so much art lacks a heartbeat, Mr. Gutierrez’s chest pounds.” Known for its provocative workshops, commissions, and cultural exchanges, the series also affords the hungry Miami performance community an opportunity to engage in dialogues with artists close-up. These conversations help push the form from the inside out. Over the past two decades, tourists and residents have witnessed Miami’s cultural bricks and mortar take on a more definite shape. Miami Beach’s Colony Theater has been restored, the Adrienne Arsht Center regularly fills all three of its halls, and soon, the New World Symphony Frank Gehry Campus and the South Dade Performing Arts Center will open their doors. But before the buildings were completed, Miami’s cultural presenters had planted a fertile ground. Season after season, they’ve brought inspired performances to South Florida and have sent homegrown performances to international stages. Cultura del Lobo’s 20th Anniversary Season is one such example. Visit the Cultura del Lobo website.