Sampling Local Dance, 8 Minutes At a Time

Written By Elizabeth Hanly
June 9, 2017 at 7:29 PM

It’s that time of the year again. South Florida’s dance scene is revving up and the annual Daniel Lewis Miami Dance Sampler returns once more to give the community a glimpse into just how varied and rich an array of dancing is available to us to choose from this season.

The sampling includes mini-performances of eight minutes or less from nine South Florida based professional dance companies. 

We talked with South Florida dancer and Dance NOW! Director Hannah Baumgarten, who organized the Sampler, about the event.

Just how inclusive is your sampler?

HB: We are presenting a wide range of companies. Although many of them are considered “contemporary,” the evening will include flamenco with Ballet Flamenco La Rosa, and even classical Russian ballet with the Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida. But even if the sampler only included “contemporary” — well, almost nobody can agree on a definition of “contemporary.” That genre alone offers a huge mix.

Let’s just say, I love to host a party. I want those to come to our sampler to begin the evening with an aperitif and not to leave until they have dessert and coffee.

We hear the Sampler will include some new faces this year?

Audiences that have attended previous Samplers will find many of their favorites dancing again, but yes, indeed, there will be some extraordinary new faces as well. 

Which of those new faces are you most pleased to present?

All of them. You knew I was going to say that, but it happens to be true. The GodoyPradera Projects is one. Miami’s newest dynamic duo will be performing after wowing audiences all over Europe. Their work is multi-dimensional, edgy, well-crafted.

The TOC Project will be performing as well. Its director, Lara Tinari, danced with Twyla Tharp. Lara’s especially interested in dance and feminism. One of her signature works is an homage to Simone Beauvoir.

Clarence Brooks and his multigenerational Repertory Dance Theater Ensemble are also among the Sampler’s new faces. Brooks is perhaps best known for his work as a dance educator in South Florida’s Florida Atlantic University, as well as for his essays on the LGBT experience in education. He brings all that to his dance.

Another of the new faces at our Sampler is a time-honored dancer in South Florida, Dale Andree, whose work helped establish Mary Street, a Coconut Grove company that pioneered the South Florida dance scene we all enjoy today.

So what do you think? Enough variety?

And those we’ve seen before?

As ever we are pleased to present Karen Peterson and Dancers [a company that features dancers with and without disabilies]. This South Florida company has achieved a national reputation for its work exploring what it means to be “able-bodied” in dance let alone in life.

The New World Dance Ensemble is another of our perennial favorites. As you know, Alvin Ailey’s director, Robert Battle, is a New World alumnus. The New World Dance Ensemble is one of the few ensembles/companies other than Alvin Ailey that is still permitted to dance Battle’s work.

And finally yes, my company Dance NOW!  will be performing. Our role will be that of bridge-makers; our dance will facilitate any necessary transitions between pieces or genres.

And let us not forget the aperitif. Our audience welcome is an ATMA Yoga Dance Company offering, a site-specific yoga as dance pre-show performance in the lobby.

What of the Sampler itself? Did your company originate the festival?

No. However, we resurrected it in 2010 with the help of Miami Dance Futures and the Florida Dance Education Organization. The sampler was originally the work of one of South Florida seminal dancer educator’s, Daniel Lewis. He ran the Sampler from 1987 through 1998. Finally… well — there is only so much any one person can do.

We wanted not only to continue build South Florida’s dance audiences but its community of dancers as well. Through the sampler, we get to know each other, linger with each other, learn and support one another. Everybody wins.

The Daniel Lewis Miami Dance Sampler, eight-minute maximum performances from nine local companies, on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex Theater, 212 NE 59th Terr., Miami; tickets $25, #15 student;; 305-975-8489.

This article also appears in Miami New Times.

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