Maya Billig’s ‘Gate Closes at 3:05’ aims to provide a post-apocalyptic safe space
Miami choreographer, dancer and filmmaker Maya Billig in her latest work, “Gate Closes at 3:05.” (Photo/Brianna Campbell)
People coped differently when the pandemic interrupted life. Some turned to gardening, some learned to cut hair, others baked. For Miami choreographer, dancer and filmmaker Maya Billig, the shutdown of arts performances triggered her impulse to create new work.
“My natural response when things start going haywire is to create and that naturally flows out of me in times of pressure,” Billig said. “During the pandemic is when my work as a choreographer really took off. We were finally able to go into the studios with one or two other dancers, and creating became my means of survival.”
Billig’s latest work, “Gate Closes at 3:05,” will show at 8 p.m. Feb. 4-5, 2022, at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami. The show has its origins in “A Lot,” an experimental piece staged in a parking lot and performed in December 2020 with support from a Knight Foundation New Work grant and the Miami Light Project. Some of the challenges of staging that work included dancers becoming sick in the weeks leading up to the performance.
Many of those challenges to art-creation persist today.
“I am still dealing with this, because if one dancer gets sick then what then? It really feels like the Wild West out here trying to make art,” Billig said. “But art making has been my lifeline throughout all of this.”
Billig, a 2019 graduate of Miami’s New World School of the Arts, grew up in Coconut Grove, where she still lives.
“I was raised by old Grove hippies,” she said. “My grandparents came from New York when the art and music scene was booming in the Grove.”
Traveling informs her creative process. She regularly takes two-month solo trips, soaking up the sights and smells that then find their way into her work.
Billig drew inspiration for the hourlong “Gate” program from the Netflix outer space Western, “Cowboy Bebop,” and from her experience at warehouse ruin bars while traveling in Budapest.
“I would put my new work in a dance theater category with modern roots like hip-hop and house dancing weaved into a modern style,” Billig said. “The set design resembles Cowboy Bebop as well as bars in Budapest where they had turned ruined buildings into bars and clubs that were these eclectic mixes of things and furniture.
“This program will be a surreal experience for audiences with four characters —performed by dancers Rafael Ruiz, Brianna Campbell, Marisa Fernandez and myself — with intertwining back stories.”
The key to Billig’s new program is the live music, specially composed for the performance, that blends electronic house music with Fats Waller tunes and meditation sounds.
“It is this which makes it surreal,” Billig said. “Working on this, I was thinking of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Masque of the Red Death,’ where there is a party inside while all this death is happening outside. The speakeasy idea is the idea of the dance space as a kind of haven and, when I made this. I was missing going out to dance.”
Billig turned to musicians Charles Levine of Soul Clap, Phill Celeste (also known as Life on Planets) and Greg Paulus of No Regular Play. The three joined up in Miami for a week of 12-hour days to compose the soundscape for “Gate Closes at 3:05.”
“I’ve always wanted to see how this fine arts dance world would blend with this historical house music scene,” Billig said.
The idea of art as a haven and refuge is central to this experiment, and Billig sees it as a thread running through her body of work.
“I’m so drawn to creating these surreal spaces, because for a short period of time the audience is in a suspended state, and in that suspended state there is an opportunity for people to renegotiate their beliefs and understandings,” Billig said. “This is the root of why we go to the theater.”
“Gate Closes at 3:05” attempts to create a safe space by integrating audience and performers within the theater.
“The musicians will speak throughout the performance, and at times the dancers will form part of the audience as well,” Billig said. “Some of the dancers will sit at tables with members of the audience. Dancers will look audience members in the eye and even pass things to the audience. The program starts with one of the dancers coming out and literally smiling at everyone as acceptance of the fact that we are here and they are here and we are completely aware of that.”
WHAT: “Maya Billig: Gate Closes at 3:05”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 4-5, 2022
WHERE: The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami
SAFETY PROTOCOLS: Must wear a mask inside the building (including audience members who are age 2 and older). Must provide proof of full vaccination or of a negative COVID-19 test completed within 72 hours. Temperature will be checked.