Dance

In its season opener, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami travels far to chart the soul

Written By Guillermo Perez
November 6, 2023 at 4:02 PM

Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami’s opening concert at the Moss Center on Saturday, Nov. 11, features Emily Bromberg, Maikel Hernandez and the ensemble in Yanis Eric Pikeris’ “Voyager.” (Photo courtesy of YE Pikeris)

With Argentina and Spain — by way of France—on the itinerary, two of the ballets in Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami’s opening concert of the season will send us on some fleet and fanciful globetrotting.  The third, a premiere by company dancer and artist-in-residence Yanis Eric Pikieris, goes for a spin beyond the stratosphere.

“Viajes” — true to the reach of the show, the title means journeys in Spanish—comes to the Dennis C. Moss Cultural Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 11. The lineup should confirm how classicism, even with all its strictures in steps and poses, has a permanent visa to travel anywhere and take on different looks.

That adaptability will be on view in “Tango Cristal,” a premiere by Leonardo Reale, whose long-standing friendship with DDTM’s co-artistic directors Carlos Guerra and Jennifer Kronenberg has involved their company in three of his other works. “Tangos del Plata” came in 2018, and a year later the duet “Insensatez” was featured in Reale’s project of the heart, Dance for Peace, a benefit gala for UNICEF nearly a decade running in different host cities including Miami.

Rehearsing Leonardo Reale’s “Tango Cristal,” Meisy Laffitte and Maikel Hernandez bring tango and ballet together in a soulful embrace while Gabriel Mores plays his grandfather Mariano’s compositions at the piano. (Photo courtesy of YE Pikieris)

Now to pay tribute to performer-composer-arranger Mariano Mores, one of Argentina’s musical masters, the choreographer relies on his birthright to tango and his career-bred command of ballet. (He was a principal at Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and artistic director of that city’s Ballet Metropolitano.) More than just biographical highlights through song and movement, this homage—taking its name from a Mores standard about the fragility of love—unveils a portrait of every human on life’s pilgrimage.

“I want audiences to learn about Mores’s great trajectory,” says Reale, “so I gathered from his most emblematic tangos the ones that let me develop a fitting choreographic tribute. The idea is to show, through his musical themes, the sensations we all feel from youth to maturity.”

In this endeavor, he recognizes the privilege of having recruited Gabriel Mores, the composer’s grandson, who resides in Miami, as musical director and onstage at the piano. “Gabriel opened his heart to this project,” says the choreographer. “And his special musical arrangements have given me the pleasure—something I’d like to share with everyone—of rediscovering tango and, more precisely, the fascinating melodies and deep feelings in the lyrics of the Mores repertory.”

For instance, the choreographer explains, the cadence of a bright song like “Firulete”—a reference to an ornamental tango step—signals the elation of a youthful spirit; “Tanguera,” with its rhythm and melodic surges provoking sure-footed progressions, announces the pride of worldly achievement. “That figures as Mariano’s artistic consecration,” says Reale.

Dancers leap to intensifying orchestral modulations In Yanis Pikeris’ “Bolero. (Photo by Julian Duque)

The choreographer strove to transmit these sensations to Dimensions dancers—word by word, note by note, beat by beat.  “They understand and can convey what tango means to anyone, from anywhere—in it, there’s the joy of love as well as heartbreak, all the sensations life brings.”

To this end, Reale is grateful for the contributions of his wife and choreographic assistant, Constanza Torres, and tango coach Elizabeth Guerrero. “Though I’m stylizing tango through ballet,” insists the choreographer, praising the input of these women, “I am committed to making it look authentic.”

But, above all, Reale considers himself a highly theatrical creator who likes to heighten each stage moment with bold moves and intense emotion. It culminates in this work with three generations of Mores musicians brought together through Gabriel’s live performance and archival footage of his forebears—his dad, Nito, who was a well-known songster, and grandfather Mariano. What follows is an all-out celebration—“I want to turn the whole house into a milonga,” says Reale, referring to a tango party—with dancers advancing toward the audience, their exuberance contagious.

While Reale delivers this gift from South America, Yanis Pikieris, Sr.—that’s Yanis Eric’s father—unwraps musical layers of centuries-old Iberian fiber (the dance beat and tonal mood having popular roots in Spain) bearing an early-20th-century French modernist stamp.  His upward-spiraling choreography for Maurice Ravel’s masterwork “Bolero”—which has seized dance makers’ attention since its premiere at the Paris Opera in 1928—first saw light at Dimensions four years ago. It returns for a sleek visual rendering of insistent orchestral modulations where the intensifying fortissimo lets Pikieris build a fortress of physicality.

Maikel Hernandez and Emily Bromberg in Yanis Eric Pikieris’ “Voyager.” (Photo courtesy of YE Pikieris)

Both he and his son have added notable works to DDTM’s repertory, and now Yanis Eric—in his seventh premiere for the Moss mainstage—has set his sights on the ethereal firmament of English composer Oliver Davis’ “Voyager,” a concerto for violin, piano, and strings, from 2013.

This young choreographer goes off exploring in his same-named ballet toward what he considers a new frontier of movement in his creative trajectory. “All the ballets I’ve done in the past have not been so athletic,” Pikieris explains. “I like performing in really fast things myself. But this is the first time I said, ‘Oh, wait, I should choreograph something with the same energy.’ That’s what I was looking for here, really virtuosic dancing—a lot of fast footwork, an upbeat power. This has a happiness I haven’t touched before. Personality-wise, this matches me more.”

That even affected the choreographic process. “This piece is one of my most deliberate,” says Pikieris. “When we came back to work at the beginning of the season, I essentially had the whole ballet choreographed in a week. I knew what I wanted and had a set plan. So, it flowed very easily, and I’m glad I was able to make it happen.”

The five movements of the Davis concerto create a suggestive auditory environment allowing four women and three men to float, soar, sparkle like heavenly bodies throughout the space of an equal number of dance sections. “They’re in white unitards with splashes of color,” says Pikieris, who went for a galactic vibe.

Yanis Pikeris’ “Bolero.” (Photo courtesy of Julian Duque)

As he describes it, “This dance builds up through the first movement and is very uplifting. And then that changes. I wanted every movement to have its own identity, a different mood, while being related. And the end kind of repeats the beginning. It’s very holistic since that comes out of the pas de deux in the fourth movement, which has softer music.”

This pivotal moment rests on Emily Bromberg—a ballerina for whom Pikieris has long wanted to choreograph—and her partner Maikel Hernandez. Pikeris praises him for his strength and decisiveness, and her for excelling in lightness. Throughout her career, including prominence at Miami City Ballet, Bromberg has upheld musicality and technical acuity, owning every step.  She puts peerless energy into interpretations for well-defined physicality and ineffable flair.

“There’s actually longing there—like a journey’s about to end, bittersweet perhaps—before a return to happiness,” says Pikeiris. “It could be a literal journey or one within yourself. The dancers all begin together and then go their separate ways. We may all start off in the same place, but our lives take us in different directions. And—though we don’t know for sure—after everything happens we may all come together in some way again.”

Our inward searches can reveal as many wonders, Pikieris believes, as the most powerful telescopes. Whether seen as a soul track or a star trek, he wants his piece to reflect that and affirms, “This ballet is definitely not pedestrian.”

WHAT: Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami presents “Viages”

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

COST: $25, $35, $45, with discounts available

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

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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