Momentum Dance Company: Ballet H2O
Pools are ubiquitous in Miami. They dot the landscape like Jackson Pollock drip paintings. Residents swim or idle the hours away by or in the pool – and dancers of Momentum Dance Company also perform in the pool, as they will on Thursday, June 1at The Betsy Hotel on Miami Beach.
When people of a certain age think of water ballet, they may think of Esther Williams and her movies, many of which were filmed on Miami Beach. Momentum takes what Williams popularized during the 1940s and 1950s and presents it to a new audience. During a phone interview, Delma Iles, founder and artistic director of Momentum, spoke about the upcoming program and of her comfort in the water. “I learned to swim when I learned to walk,” says Iles. Over the past few years Iles has presented water ballet programs on Miami Beach and elsewhere; this is the first time it is being held at The Betsy.
On the program are two pieces, “Water Birds” and a new, untitled work. “Water Birds” is abstractly based on the movements of water birds such as herons, cranes, and egrets. It’s set to a score by Arvo Pärt, who is a composer of classical and religious music. Costumes are bathing suits hand-painted by Iles.
The untitled work is composed of two parts, a duet and a quintet and has more of a dance feel to it. The music is by John Field, a classical composer who is said to have influenced Chopin.
Iles speaks of the process of choreographing a water ballet. She starts by working alone in the pool, then taking it to the studio where she sketches out the outline and patterns with the dancers. Once in the pool the dancers are faced with certain challenges such as weight and the limitations of dancing fast in water. Conquering these challenges makes for a beautiful art form.
Many choreographers have presented works with water in mind — including George Balanchine’s Balla della Regina that takes place underwater, in a grotto. Last season, Miami City Ballet placed A Midsummer Night’s Dream undersea. There is a growing awareness of the need to protect and live in harmony with the environment; this awareness is making its way into works of art.
Iles water ballet program is also a part of a growing movement to present dance away from the proscenium stage — and take it to the audience. These site-specific and site-adaptive works allow audience members to become more active participants in the piece. It enables them to determine many factors in the viewing experience, such as viewpoint — and the opportunity to relax around a pool, which literally can reflect beautiful art.
Momentum Dance Company: An Evening of Water Ballet, Thurs., June 1, 7:00 p.m., The Betsy Hotel pool,1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, entranceon Collins Avenue;admission free, 20% off at the restaurant to anyone attending the performance; 844-862-3157; thebetsyhotel.com.