Here & Now festival showcases adventurous performances

Artist Charo Oquet will perform “The Miami Flyers” at the Miami Light Project’s annual Here & Now festival
Artist Charo Oquet will perform “The Miami Flyers” at the Miami Light Project’s annual Here & Now festival

Miami Light Project, the Wynwood-based group that is one of this city’s most vital performing arts organizations, has long been known for convention-bending work from both local and visiting artists. One of the highlights of the group’s season is their annual Here & Now festival, which commissions new performances from emerging artists and is especially welcoming to those who take creative risks.

The latest iteration runs two weekends starting May 12, with three artists performing May 12-14 and a second group May 19-21.

The selections remain true to the festival’s adventurous interdisciplinary tradition. Carla Forte, Natalia Lassalle-Morillo and Jenny Larsson are known for combining dance, film and theatrical performance. For Here & Now, they will each dive into emotion, the mind and memory, mixing multiple storytelling forms in their own way. Sandra Portal-Andreu also creates theatrical dance works that depend on both sound and projected images. Her performance will feature her signature sense of humor about human behavior and social habits.

Two artists whose work falls even further outside the usual dance and theater structures are Charo Oquet and Juraj Kojs. Oquet is best known as a visual artist and former director of Edge Zones, a Wynwood gallery that closed in 2011. Edge Zones remains active as an organization, though, and under its umbrella Oquet has been producing performance festivals for the last few years. Still, venturing into performance work herself feels like unfamiliar territory.

“Working with Miami Light Project has been an amazing experience,” she says. “It’s very much for people like me who are new or not as seasoned in performance.”

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Oquet often explores issues of Afro-Caribbean identity, especially the troubled relationship between her home country and neighboring Haiti.

“I have been studying a thing called gaga, which is the Dominican version of rara, an Afro-Caribbean ritual that happens in Easter on both sides of the island,” Oquet said. She says there are regular rara parades every week in Little Haiti, where groups wind through the side streets with drums and singing, like a walking party.

An experience at one of those Little Haiti rara parades became the source of Oquet’s Here & Now project The Miami Flyers.

“While we were marching, there was an accident … a truck veered into the street and flipped upside down,” Oquet says. “It was an incredible happening.”

Oquet says The Miami Flyers is largely an audio project, with elements of theater. Rather than a typical stage set, Oquet is building a kind of sculptural installation that sits in the center of the performance space. The rara band she found in Little Haiti, Kriz Rara, will make an appearance, too.

Like Oquet, Kojs also regularly breaks the usual rules of performance. The Slovakian-born artist was trained in classical piano. Music is at the core of everything he does, though his work typically includes elements of both theater and movement. He describes his upcoming performance for Here & Now, his second time on the festival, as “activating public space with sound.”

Kojs’ project is both personal and political. After trying to commute using Miami’s transport system, he found that the bus and train networks here are not efficient enough to be practical. That frustration inspired Bang for the Train. Kojs points to traditional cultures that use drumming to call the rain or challenge political authorities.

“I thought it would be useful and impactful to create a campaign in which the whole city can drum for this train to happen,” he said.

For Here & Now he has enlisted a large group of musicians, including professionals and local high school students. They will bang out sound patterns inside and outside the Light Box and will ultimately engage the audience to participate. The rhythms in Bang for the Train are based on Kojs’ recordings of Miami’s Metrorail system, plus a version of the traditional American railroad song Wabash Cannonball, so the idea of trains runs throughout.

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of South Florida dance and performing arts coverage.

If you go

What: Here & Now festival Program I, with Carla Forte’s “Emotional O,” Sandra Portal-Andreu’s “For: Shame From: ____,” and Juraj Kojs’ “Bang for the Train”

When: 8 p.m., Thursday to Saturday

Where: The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami

What: Here & Now festival Program II, with Jenny Larsson’s “On the Other Side of the Lake,” Natalia Lassalle-Morrillo’s “Irma” and Charo Oquet’s “The Miami Flyers”

When: 8 p.m. May 19-21

Info: $15-$25; miamilightproject.com or 305.576.4350