Choreographer and city emblem Rosie Herrera has (as an upcoming short documentary film says) “Never Not Been From Miami.” But the Hialeah-bred dance artist who’s taken her intrinsically Miami character (hiphop, Little Havana cabaret, modern dance, an innate comfort with drag queen extravagance and surreal dance theater, and let’s not forget the lyric opera voice, and love of over-the-top Latin pop) to major dance platforms around the United States, has spent most of the past year outside her home town.
That’s been a good thing for Herrera, whose company performs Aug. 4 to 7 at New York’s Joyce Theater, one of the city’s leading venues for dance, as part of a series presented by the American Dance Festival. ADF, which gathers dancers, teachers, choreographers and companies from around the country and the world in Durham, North Carolina, each summer, has been a sponsor and supporter of Herrera’s since 2009. She started 2016 with an ADF residency in Durham, where Herrera began making “Carne Viva,” her latest work. That was followed by a stint in April at Washington’s Dance Place, another nationally known dance venue, for the Alan M. Kreigsman Creative Residency, named for the former Washington Post dance critic (the only dance writer to win a Pulitzer Prize.) And that was followed by three weeks at The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard, for another residency named for Bessie Schonberg, a legendary modern dance choreography teacher and mentor.
(Note to funders: Opportunities for artists to spend weeks creating and incubating new work are almost non-existent in Miami. The Miami Light Project gives grants, plus rehearsal space and production help, for their invaluable Here & Now festival, but it’s not the same as total immersion.)
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In more recent pieces Herrera has dug deeper into her Miami history. In the solo “Cookie’s Kid,” which Miami Light commissioned last year, she explored her tough mother and tortuous family history, while “Show.Girl,” for New York’s Ballet Hispanico, used her feathered cabaret past to examine theatricalizing sexuality. She’s moving past the imagery of her early pieces to a different kind of dance theater.
Herrera’s company premiered “Carne Viva” at ADF in June, and they’ll dance it again at the Joyce, along with “Various Stages of Drowning: A Cabaret,” the haunting piece that first brought her to the notice of ADF. (Herrera created the piece for Here & Now — which also brought the Adrienne Arsht Center on board as a crucial Miami sponsor for several years.) Her Facebook page has been peppered with pleas to her New York friends for tips on a baker who can make 30 birthday cakes for cheap for “Drowning” (it involves a girl in a poufy dress, a lot of frosting, and one of those razor’s edge comedy into darkness moments at which Herrera excels) and for a friend’s child to do a walk-on.
Except for a wild performance at New World Symphony’s Pulse last winter, where Herrera’s troupe joined the Nu Deco Ensemble and the Spam All-Stars, she’s been absent from Miami this past year. Here’s hoping there’ll be a place where she can bring it home soon.