Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People’s performance of the Last Meadow this past weekend was one of the most confronting performances I’ve seen. Fresh off the plane after a week on the beaches and rainforests of Puerto Rico, I touch ground and find myself at the Colony Theater squirming and scowling. I am chest deep in a liver detox, preparing for my Saturday night performance of a work-in-progress piece titled “Dancing with my liver.” I thought I had worked through all of the anger, fear, and darkness that I could bear until I entered Last Meadow.
This performance — part of the excellent Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Department’s Cultura del Lobo series, which has been bringing in challenging and off-beat offerings for some time now — examines pop culture and Americana through James Dean and three of his films. Incorporating a gender bending, often absurdist approach, the three main characters/dancers take the audience to a strange and obsessive world, a world of waiting, wanting and concepts that were drawn out to excess with exhaustively long stretches of dialogue, stage business, and pantomime –where small segments of movement provided relief and felt like a self-indulgent afterthought. I can’t say the piece wasn’t compelling or interesting, but its anger, frustration, and success at creating a meta dual reality simply made my liver hurt.
The following night I performed for “The Spoken Soul Festival,” which was part of International SWAN day (Supporting Women Artists Now) — that takes place all over the world. My movement poem bridged the world of archetype, metaphor, bellydance, and Yoruban storytelling through an extemporaneous journey into my liver and hips. It was risky, but after the darkness and sadness the audience was afforded the rhythmic dénouement, which is necessary to give performance a transformative and universal relevance.
And Introducing: The Union Project
Sunday night offered liver refreshment with the Union Project, a newly relocated contemporary dance company founded in 2009 in New York City by Brazilian choreographer Mariana Oliveira. The performance took place at the cozy and welcoming 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana. The unique neighborhood is one of my favorite haunts that echoes the wildly creative vibes of denizens past like Susan Caraballo, Vivian Marthell and Carlos Suarez de Jesus, to name a few, who hosted alternative art and dance and performance that was at the forefront of current Miami culture. Tonight, this studio, too, was alive and ready for the pleasurable performance.
The evening offered two premieres from the company “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” inspired by the famed Pablo Picasso painting; and “Dancing with Tom,” inspired by the music of Brazil’s great, Antonio Carlos Jobim. “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” was especially rewarding. Based on the nude prostitutes from the streets of Barcelona, the choreography captured a wild and provocative essence that made the piece exciting to watch. There were some lovely moments of framing and tableaus reminiscent of Parisian Art Nouveau arches and curves; there was a freshness and playfulness that offered something new and curious. I am definitely looking forward to more from this dance company. So is my liver.