In Its 2nd Year, ‘Miami Dances’ Spotlights Top Notch, Affordable Dance Over 2 Days

Written By Guillermo Perez
May 6, 2024 at 5:34 PM

Dance NOW! Miami joins the “Miami Dances” lineup with the finale from Hannah Baumgarten and co-director Diego Salterini’s “Gli Altri/The Others.” ‘Miami Dances” features two night of programs at the Sandrell Rivers Theater, Miami, on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11. (Photo by Simon Soong)

Extend your vision over South Florida to peek into windows where dancers work. Down by Cutler Bay a whirligig of ballerinas might stop off-kilter, steadied by sturdy partners until they all jump away.  Not far from there, performers in wheelchairs and companions striding around them may be riffing off each other. In Coral Gables a former church provides sanctuary to new movement explorers. At a cultural center in Little Haiti, a modern dance troupe readies a premiere or a 20th-century classic.

Beachside, a young choreographer puts a fresh face on neoclassicism, and in Miami Shores a band of outliers tackles the latest gender/climate/you-name-it issues.

Other places lie along the way for you to steal a glance of the action—whether at a state-of-the-art facility or a makeshift space adapted for dance making, adopted for dance dreaming.

Maikel Hernandez, left, Miranda Montes de Oca and Pedro Aldana of Dimensions Dance Theatre Miami. (Photo courtesy of Simon Soong)

And, precisely for that extended vision of what’s cooking in these creative hotspots, “Miami Dances” brings it all together at the Sandrell Rivers Theater on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11. This is the second year for the program; in its inaugural year, it was held at the Lehman Theater on Miami Dade College’s North Campus.

Cameron Basden, the director of Miami Dance Hub, producers of “Miami Dances,” aims for the two programs “to celebrate the culmination of our dance season with the multiple genres we’re fortunate to have—to excite and perhaps introduce audiences to what they may not be aware of.”

This brings attention, says Basden, not only to established companies but to the many new voices in the region, including “some within larger dance organizations who are also creators in their own right.” The back and forth among big and small-scale groups, well-rooted and emerging artists, creates opportunity to connect and just to socialize. “Many of them,” says Basden, “are meeting each other for the first time.”

Basden says she intentionally keeps the ticket prices low in hopes of having those that may not see dance find the shows affordable and she also specifically chooses venues where dance may not be as accessible in the community.

Friday night’s program includes Ballet Flamenco La Rosa, Aeon De La Cruz and Nicole Pedraza, Chachi Perez and Carne Viva Dance Theatre, Dance NOW! Miami, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, Emily Ricca, and Pioneer Winter Collective, with a pre-performance show by Junior Domingos. On Saturday night, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, Ballet Vero Beach, Clarita Filgueiras, Karen Peterson and Dancers, Randolph Ward, RTW Dance, Chloe Freytag in Durante Verzola’s “The Typewriter” and Syncopate Collective perform with a pre-curtain show by Reshma Anwar. The schedule is subject to change.

Nicole Pedraza, right, takes the stage alongside performer/composer Aeon De La Cruz in a collaborative duet at 7 p.m. Friday, May 10. (Photo courtesy of the artists)

A native Texan with pedigreed Russian and Balanchine ballet training, Basden was a dancer and then associate director at the Joffrey—one of America’s premier troupes — and remains a guardian of its legacy as a rehearsal supervisor for company co-founder Gerald Arpino’s ballets.

She came upon another mission after moving to South Florida a decade ago with her wife, becoming attuned to dance activity around her and often writing about it.

In 2018 she organized Miami Dance Hub, as she explains, “in response to multiple conversations within this community.” These turned her to serving the need for greater resources, interaction, and visibility for practitioners of her art form. That on-going effort—offering newsletters, website access, archived interviews, etc.—led to “Miami Dances” as “the natural progression to take it to the next level.”

Rachel Keane Dancers are, from left, Sam Perez, Jennifer Rivera, Chachi Perez, and David Velazco, percussion. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Keane)

It’s not that this area has been devoid of other unifying efforts—back in the 1980s we had “Dance Umbrella” and the “Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler” reached its thirteenth edition in 2023. But to maintain regional cohesion and resonance requires, through time and changing conditions, multiple management. And Basden has taken on that challenge drawing many artists to her cause.

Hannah Baumgarten, artistic co-director of Dance NOW! Miami recalls how her company came up as a grass-roots organization associated with this area’s Performing Arts Network, “creating art with local talent organically at a collective space. Now it’s our turn not only to focus on our work but also provide guidance and opportunities for younger talents to blossom. For us being in the ‘Miami Dances’ mix is just natural.”

DNM joins the ‘Miami Dances’ lineup with the finale from Baumgarten’s and co-director Diego Salterini’s “Gli Altri/The Others,” which the choreographer describes as entertaining yet meaningful, a strong pre-intermission closer for the first program.

“Programming a group show is a big challenge,” reflects Baumgarten about Basden’s enterprise, adding, “You’re never quite sure what each group has ready and how to put these together to keep audiences engaged.”

Basden’s organizational process starts almost two years in advance through brainstorming and grants writing before a submissions call-out seeking video documentation. This time out she’s gathered sixteen participants, including an outreach to Ballet Vero Beach. “Variety is needed,” she says. “It’s like putting a puzzle together.” And that will reveal a panorama from traditional flamenco to fierce independents on the fringe.

Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami co-director Jennifer Kronenberg is particularly enthused about her company’s contribution. “Voyager,” by Yanis Eric Pikieris. “(It) is colorful and quick, technically demanding and emotionally sensitive.” And this is a good representation of their artistic profile, something Basden advocates for.

Flamenco dancer Clarita Filgueiras performs Flamenco Puro where passion meets the grace of Spain’s culture. (Photo courtesy of Maria Roldan)

Says Kronenberg, “We’re constantly on a mission to grow our profile. Miami is such a big city that we’re all busy hustling to survive. But we have so much to learn from one another, and opportunities like this offer a unique space to network.” She thinks of “Miami Dances” as a quilt participants can sew adding their own distinctive squares.

Up-and-coming dancers and choreographers have rushed forward to be welcomed into this fold. Among these, Enrique Villacreses, a 2019 BFA graduate of New World School of the Arts, considers how the solitary work of artists finds balance here in productive camaraderie.

“Being an individual,” he says, “does not mean being alone but taking time to reflect on what you’re doing, checking in with yourself.  To work with others, you have to start with the most basic thing—showing up to see their work. Maybe they’ll invite you to a rehearsal. That makes sure you’re present and others aren’t left out.”

“Miami Dances” jibes with his involvement in Syncopate Collective, a pod of collaborators across disciplines which supports development and performance opportunities.

Syncopate Collective’s “Rinne Tensei,” featuring Rafael Ruiz-Del-Vizo and Stephanie Perez, choreographed by Enrique Villacreses, references concepts of origins and rebirth. (Photo courtesy of Syncopate Collective)

Under their aegis, his “Rinne Tensei” (featuring Stephanie Perez and Rafael Ruiz-Del-Vizo) will reference concepts of origins and rebirth. While Villacreses prefers viewers to draw their own interpretations, he does reveal that keeping this 2022 piece pared down, now a good fit for the show, served as a creative catalyst.

The NWSA connection continues as 2021 BFA graduate Nicole Pedraza takes the stage alongside performer/composer Aeon De La Cruz in a collaborative duet. De La Cruz says that the “manipulated sonic layers” in this emerge as “roomy and glossy.” The piece, says Pedraza, “is a lot about falling and reconfiguring oneself in the intricacy and multiplicity of identity.”

While alert to the contemporary, she champions ballet, and he delves into different disciplines. In this, she affirms, “we’re swapping identities and coming back into ourselves—without a male-female divide.” De La Cruz calls the interaction “visceral and robust.”

Their Latino heritage, “without us intending it,” acknowledges Pedraza, “seeps into our practice.”  Nicaraguan culture stays close to her heart. And De La Cruz admits to a Dominican defiance in his artistic strides. Their voices, their names, also vibrate in the soundscape—and the composer observes this breaks down isolating barriers.

Karen Peterson and Dancers perform in “Miami Dances” at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 11. (Photo courtesy of Karen Peterson and Dancers)

Fellowship is equally important for Durante Verzola, the Miami City Ballet teacher an artisan of playful ballet in his solo “The Typewriter” from a longer piece, set on long-admired Chloe Freytag (“her genuine joy comes alive through music and movement,” he says), and Pioneer Winter, whose dance collective of alternative dance styles and content birthed a cross-generational duet excerpted from “Birds of Paradise.”

“It’s very freeing,” says Winter, “to let a section of an evening-length work stand on its own.” This way the strength and balanced intimacies of the partnering come to the fore.  He appreciates a showcase anthology that reconnects with his first artistic breaks.

“It gives me a lot of hope to see Cameron put this together,” adds Verzola. “The range and enthusiasm of all involved is inspiring and invigorating. Dance in Miami has something to say.”

WHAT:  Miami Dances

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11

WHERE: Sandrell Rivers Theater, 6103 NW 7th Ave., Miami

COST:  $15

INFORMATION: 305-284-8800 and 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

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