Peter London’s influence in dance emerges in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’
Leon Cobb of the Peter London Global Dance Company is one of the dancers who will perform with the company in “Edge of Tomorrow” at the Arsht Center for four performances from Thursday, Dec. 28 through Sunday, Dec. 31. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Reed)
Peter London Global Dance Company (PLGDC) has arrived at a high point offering us a bracing view of their art form. In “Edge of Tomorrow, some of today’s attention-worthy artists will join artistic director London on long-held common ground to affirm the joy of thriving creativity.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for four performances, Thursday, Dec. 28 through Sunday, Dec. 31.
In addition to staging his own choreographies, he has opened up opportunities for former students to show their work both as interpreters and creators. And it’s turned out that among these emerging talents a notable number has made a mark on the international dance front, signaling other exciting achievements to come.
“It’s very personal,” says London, “the relationship I have with these artists. To welcome back home those who studied here and then became leading figures in top companies is phenomenal. I want audiences to feel very proud of what Miami has been doing for years in modern dance.”
London’s well-merited pride is apparent as he rattles off the names of all the dance organizations where once aspiring South Florida artists, NWSA alums, have achieved prominence.
As a case in point, “Edge of Tomorrow” will feature world premieres by Jamar Roberts—formerly an eminent performer at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and for three years the company’s resident choreographer—and Lloyd Knight and Richard Villaverde, currently topnotch dancers at the Graham company. All three men are products, from different periods, of New World’s dance program and remain especially appreciative of London’s tutelage. Justin Rapaport, trained at New World and Juilliard, will also set “Current,” a new solo, on PLGDC.
To a great extent, what the presence of these talents means for London is family—and read that also as heritage, both personal and communal. His long-term association with the Arsht, which is co-producing this show, has provided a venue for him to attract artists who’ve taken wing in the dance world and now can fly back here to share their journey with relatives, teachers, friends—and the community.
London recalls how natural it was to bring former students into his mission. “I said to them, ‘Okay, you know I’ve started this company, so you can come and dance with us.’ I would match them with the dancers I was working with. But, of course, these previously local residents are now in different places and often traveling around the world. So, the only time they can come back to Miami is during Christmas. And that’s how they’ve become part of an annual holiday show.”
For the choreographers invited to participate, the commissions for this end-of-the-year event are unlike any other career highlight.
Reflecting on his sense of place, Roberts says, “I grew up here and have friends and family from the Caribbean. The dancers I’m working with who live in Miami make up a sort of melting pot, coming from cultures that have a sense of rhythm and so much community in spirit. I think that’s very inspiring. So, when they come to the studio and move with their special synergy, even if I’m not trying to consciously pull from that, it works its way into the dance.”
In fact, even heartier regional flavor will be stirred into his new piece. “As an Offering” has a four-movement score specially composed by trumpeter and current University of Miami Frost School of Music professor Etienne Charles, a native of Trinidad and Tobago like director London.
“You’re getting jazz sounds in the music,” says Roberts, “but also the drumming of the Caribbean. And since I trained with Peter growing up—and later took part in Ron Brown’s Afrocentric dance practice at Ailey—all that’s very much within reach. I’m taking these influences and mixing them with my own personal style.”
And with that reach,
Roberts wants to hold up not only the technical skills each dancer brings to the process but, imperatively, their human qualities. This goal has made his choreography very sought-after as witnessed in a recent commission from Miami City Ballet.
“I am using the dancer as a person, not simply as a tool to illustrate the music,” emphasizes Roberts. “I want real, live emotion. I’m always trying to bring out the humanity of dance. Yes, all the technical things are there—what dancers like to get off on. But I feel the audience wants to see someone having a human experience.”
From Day One he needed to communicate that to the performers, with the force of his piece springing from a pronounced spirituality. For Roberts, “If you decide to make this your journey, all creative endeavors bring something into the world as an offering—to the Creator, or whatever you believe in, that put this gift upon you.”
Resonating with Roberts, Knight also wants the spiritual to come through his own choreography. As a member of the Graham company for eighteen years and a soloist there since 2014, he is now eager to gather the bounty of all he’s learned as an interpreter and lay it out in his dance-making. “In order for a work to be presented at its highest form,” he proposes, “talent is great, but a lot of heart and sincerity are big deal for me, too. There’s love in that—for the art form and the universe.”
His ideal infuses “Deeply Rooted,” the solo he created and will perform (alternating with guest dancer Leon Cobb) to jazz composer Charles’ music. “At this time in my career,” says Knight, “it’s about presenting work that speaks from my soul—to connect better and send out a message of the human experience. I want to take the audience on a ride—a complete ride!”
For this, the English-born, Miami-raised son of Jamaican immigrants can rely on the kind of thrill which readily surges from interactions with his original South Florida base. Says Knight, “I get so excited when I meet new Miami people, especially those that trained at New World. As alumni, we recognize each other—there’s an air to us.”
In their roles as choreographer-performers, Knight singles out the Caribbean spice he shares with his Cuban-American friend and frequent stage companion Villaverde, saying, “We joke that’s always in us.”
Villaverde will be dancing a premiere of his own in this show, the solo “In Solidarity.” This emerging choreographer’s artistic approach, as Knight sees it, “has a very visceral texture. Richard is a passionate person, and I knew that, but I’m surprised about how far it goes. It’s in how he breathes and works.”
Hallowed offerings, deep roots, and solidarity; such is the inspiration that stirs these men and director London embraces bracketing Edge of Tomorrow with his premiere “Lunar Landing” and a restaging of “Children of the Underground.” These works let his imagination traverse time, with a far-out adventure for humankind and an earthy passage through historical periods joining holy and festive dance.
“I envisioned a future where we can go deeper into space,” London says, describing the scenario for “Lunar Landing.” That involves intergalactic explorers with their bodies transformed in part into artificial mechanisms. “With its digital sounds, the music suggests traveling through the universe. It’s fun and exciting, and uses new kinds of movement as if from human machines.”
“Children of the Underground” came about as part of a cultural partnership with Martinique, involving London’s creation and a hip hop/contemporary dance fusion from David Milome, whose “Combinaison (Combination)” is also on the program.
“My piece is about how dances from West Africa, originally sacred among the Yoruba, transferred into the secular in carnival,” says London. “The underground references how in the Caribbean you couldn’t perform those dances in the colonial period. But, when I was going to college and performing with Graham in New York City, there was also incredible dancing taking place there in basement clubs. Yet the public never saw that—just like when dancing had to be hidden from the colonial masters. I wanted to bring all that together, showing similarities between sacred and club and street dancing.”
In other words, his piece exalts the wonder of artistic continuity, from ancestral origins to today, with vigor enough for many tomorrows, despite adversity and marginalization.
And London would like to widen that already deep focus. He says, “By coming together here, all these young artists—a multiethnic group of dancers from different backgrounds—celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Miami. In one house they can become our city’s cultural ambassadors.”
WHAT: Peter London Global Dance Company, “Edge of Tomorrow”
WHERE: Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts, Carnival Studio Theater, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28, Friday, Dec. 29 and Saturday, Dec. 30; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31.
INFORMATION: 305-949-6722 or arshtcenter.org
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