Inaugural three-day ‘Miami Dances’ festival gets its feet off the ground

Written By Michelle F. Solomon
May 15, 2023 at 1:11 PM

Isabelle Haas, Allyn Ginns Ayers (center), David Harris, and Matthew Huefner in Dance NOW! Miami’s “Anusim,” which will be performed Sunday as part of the three-day “Miami Dances” festival at the Lehman Theater on Miami Dade College’s North Campus. (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

When Adele Myers relocated to Miami in 2015, she was looking for a home for her dance company.

“I toured for almost a decade,” says Myers, adding that she “never really had a home base.”

And while Myers and her company have found their footing here –receiving commissions from Miami Light Project and MDC Live Arts and its two-year residency at the Moss Center in 2021, and more – Myers recalls the sense of community she had with dancers from her days in New York.

Adele Myers and Diana Deaver in “Is That All There Is,” which will be performed at “Miami Dances” on Saturday, May 19. (Photo courtesy of Steven Schreiber)

“We’d all be taking classes and different company members and artistic directors would be in the classes together. Other dancers would walk by on their way to rehearsal, or you’d sit in the hallways getting to know each other,” she recalls. “People were literally crossing paths. And there’s a space and an energy that comes around when there’s that kind of crisscrossing in space and time,” says Myers.

She and former Joffrey Ballet dancer Cameron Basden happened to move to Miami at around the same time, recalls Myers, and instantly connected.

“We had lunch together immediately because we were both excited about the dance community here and that there were so many kinds of dance. But we both had the same question. ‘Where is the center, where is it that everyone comes together?’ ”

It wasn’t so much a physical place, however, but more of a community. Basden says, “I kept hearing over and over that what was missing was that they wanted to be unified, they wanted to have conversations together, something that could be an umbrella to hold them together, that wouldn’t only promote (dancers) but unify them.”

Former Joffrey Ballet dancer, ballet master and associate director Cameron Basden, began Miami Dance Hub in 2018 and has created the three-day festival “Miami Dances.” (Photo courtesy of Artburst Miami)

Three years later, she founded a virtual dance site, Miami Dance Hub, which was the start of the coalition building. The idea was to create a networking platform for south Florida dance professionals along with digital resources.

Now, Basden has taken the idea of Miami Dance Hub and created a live, three-day festival.

“Miami Dances,” from Friday, May 19 through Sunday, May 21 at the Lehman Theater on Miami Dade College’s North Campus, has a multi-pronged mission – to start building the longed-for community foundation among Miami’s dancers, to encourage conversations, and to celebrate with audiences what Basden says is the richness of the area’s multi-genre dance scene.

The companies performing over two days include Myers’ company, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, Ballet Vero Beach, Ballet Florida, Karen Peterson and Dancers, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, Dance NOW! Miami, Delou Africa Dance Ensemble, Ballet Flamenco La Rosa, Miami City Ballet, the hip-hop ensemble of Cultura and dancer Destiny Delancy.

Delou Africa Dance Ensemble, accompanied by live drumming and voice, closes Saturday’s “Miami Dances.” (Photo courtesy of Delou Africa Dance Ensemble)

The idea began as an informal closing out of the dance season – a culmination of sorts that would give visibility to professional dance companies in South Florida. It would be mostly a way to introduce audiences, or for those who were already dance fans, to the diversity of companies here: Classical ballet, Flamenco, tap, folkloric, hip hop, storytelling, and mixed-ability troupes.

“I didn’t want it to be small excerpts – yes some of them are pas de deux and things like that, but I wanted to give a good dose of what people do and what dance in South Florida is. And the point for both audiences and dancers is to see worlds that maybe they don’t even know about,” explains Basden.

In many ways, too, it is meant to take companies out of their silos and by having them experience what others in their field are doing.

“Everyone works so hard putting on shows, running their companies, marketing, promoting, training, and sometimes it can be very solitary. You are in your world and there are so many little worlds going on,” says Basden.

The performance companies in “Miami Dances” cover a spectrum of styles –  Basden wanted to make sure of that. She talks about putting barrier-breaking, hip hop artist and choreographer Cultura in the mix. “It was so important for her to be a part of this. She is from a different world and it’s not a world that I know – the commercial dance world; she’s young and energetic.”

Born in Miami, Gabriella Lemus, aka Cultura, grew up in Los Angeles. She moved back to Miami in 2017 and opened Cambio, a dance studio in Wynwood. She’ll bring hip hop to “Miami Dances.” (Photo courtesy of Cultura)

Born in Miami, Gabriella Lemus, aka Cultura, grew up in Los Angeles. She moved back to Miami in 2017 and opened Cambio, a dance studio in Wynwood.

“My focus is to create change. That’s what cambio means in Spanish. To create positive change in the Miami community.” The 31-year-old has created a coalition of professional dancers that are able to work in the industry. “Good people leave here to go to New York and Los Angeles, but there’s no need to leave. We have an industry here where almost all Latin videos are shot in Miami, we rehearse for the tours here and we have so many awards shows.  There’s no reason that this community shouldn’t have all types of opportunities for dancers.”

Cultura herself knows about that world. She was a backup dancer for Boca Raton-born Ariana Grande in the megastar’s Dangerous Woman tour in 2017 and Cultura was the first female to dance as a male/gender neutral dancer among nine men in the company.

Cultura says that she’ll be presenting an ensemble that will be using hip hop as a vessel to bring awareness to “what’s going on in Florida right now,” but, she promises nothing preachy. “I felt like it would be kind of tone deaf of me to not address topics, many that affect me personally,” she says, adding that the piece she’ll bring to “Miami Dances” will be about love, acceptance, empathy and compassion. “The thing is, that’s how hip hop was born. It started as breaking and breaking came from a need for Black and Brown disenfranchised people in the ghetto to stop gang violence. They used dance as a form to fight. Hip hop has always been a reflection of what’s going on,” she says.

Soloist Mayelu Perez of Ballet Flamenco La Rosa. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Abreu)

While Basden didn’t put any specifics on what the performers could choose to do for their selections, she did want to put her own stake in the ground for an event that would have longevity.

For one, she wanted to make sure the admission price was kept affordable. “We wanted it to be accessible. To introduce people, families to what’s happening. To maybe open the eyes of young people to what’s possible,” she says, adding that the
selection of the venue was purposefully picked, too. “Our choice of the Lehman Theater on the Miami Dade College North Campus was to go to an area that wasn’s saturated with dance. To bring all of these different kinds of dance to that area.”

And, she wanted to make sure that artists participating were paid. “Dancers should get paid for their work,” she says.

She also hoped for the festival to offer a learning experience for dancers. Three days of master classes for intermediate and advanced dancers will be taught by South Florida choreographers and instructors.

Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida presents classical dance with “Grand Pas Classique,” performed by Remina Tanaka and Yayoi Sasaki, on Saturday, May 20, at “Miami Dances.” (Photo courtesy of Patricia’s Photography)

“We have so many people that are giving classes here in Florida and all in different places. This is opening it up to say ‘Come and experience the amazing instructors that we have that are in multi-genres as well.’ Dance at this time is so inclusive, you can’t just stick to one thing. Dancers need to be a part of it all.”

While the classes are specifically for dancers, Basden says anyone can come and sit in as a spectator. For those who just want to get their bodies moving, there’s free yoga on Sunday morning.

“‘Miami Dances’ is for the community at large, but it’s also for the dance community,” says Basden.

Closing out the festival will be a deep-dive panel discussion into the state of dance in the world today with Miami artists, directors and choreographers Adam Schnell, Njeri Plato, Destiny Delancey and Myers. It’s a way to spark those conversations that Basden heard were missing when she first arrived in Miami.

“There is an importance of centering, of bringing all these people together. . . because the more we keep pushing that narrative, the more there is going to be a community that comes together in a way that is right for Miami,” says Myers.

WHAT: Miami Dance Hub presents “Miami Dances”

WHERE: Lehman Theater at Miami Dade College North Campus, 11380 NW 27th Ave., Miami.

WHEN: Performances 7 p.m. Saturday, May 20 featuring Adele Myers and Dancers, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, Ballet Vero Beach, Ballet Florida, tap soloist Destiny Delancy, Karen Peterson and Dancers mixed-ability company, and Delou Africa Dance Ensemble; 3 p.m. Sunday, May 21 features Ballet Flamenco La Rosa, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, Miami City Ballet, Dance NOW! Miami, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, and Cultura. Masterclasses are at various times Friday, May 19 through Sunday, May 21. 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday, May 21, Yoga on the Plaza.

COST: $10 for each performance. $10 for master classes dancers, or $50 for weekend pass for all classes and performances. Yoga on the Plaza, free.

INFORMATION: (312) 282-4636 or is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news.

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