The second program in Miami Light Project’s Here & Now festival, which previewed Wednesday night at their Wynwood space, resembled the first week’s offering in several ways, with two movement/multimedia works that relied heavily on film imagery for their impact, followed by an unconventional performance that intersected intriguingly with the real world. The show runs Thursday to Saturday at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse.
Jenny Larsson’s On the Other Side of the Lake invoked a third element – water – leveraging its potent physicality and symbolic power. Lake opens with gliding, dreamlike film of a peaceful lake, as a voiceover tells us that though the lake might seem isolated "streams flow in and out… it’s all linked." A sense of fluidity runs through the scooping, reaching, turning movement done by dancers Larsson, Rachel Caroll, and Lize-Lotte Pitlo, who wear soft blue and grey skirts and tops, while Dag Rosenqvist’s serene score mixes with the sound of water flowing from a pipe into a washtub onstage. The women tell lake stories, of a picnic, a sunset walk, and a more ominous account that hints at drowning. Their stories, like their movement, overlap and run into each other – like merging water.
As the film shows us a figure falling and rising from the lake, the dancers merge literally with the water in the washtub and two large buckets. They dunk and fling their long hair, scoop water onto their bodies, Pitlo writhes in a giant puddle on the floor, Larsson crouches in the tub as water pours over her. It’s visceral and sensual. Lake ends in darkness, as a voiceover offers a dream of union with something greater "maybe now I am the lake" contrasted with what sounds like harsh panting, as if someone, drowning perhaps, is struggling to breathe. Lake was simultaneously lovely and dark, surreal and sensual – compellingly dreamlike.
Natalia Lassalle-Morillo’s Irma was visually impeccable, but theatrically flat. A program note explains that Irma is a portrait of a woman at three stages of life, as well as a deeper portrayal of "the enduring essence of the self" – an ambitious idea that doesn’t come across in what we see. A film by Lassalle-Morillo successively shows three women, each wearing dark blue-green, hurrying through the rain into what appears to be a bar. Each one enters, as if they’d walked from the film into the theater, to sit in one of the chairs scattered onstage; onscreen we see a blurry man over their shoulder, a stand-in for our gaze. Lassalle-Morillo represents a young woman, Mary Spring Borges is middle-aged, and Gladys Yanez is an older woman. Each one sits silently, tense and almost motionless, for what feels like a very long time. Lassalle-Morillo and Borges wrap their arms defensively around themselves, while Yanez strokes her arms and throat with tentative sensuality.
All three actresses have an intense presence. But any sense of their stories, personalities, selves, struggles, anything that would engage us and give us a feeling for their "essence" is hidden behind this opaque performance. We do get a depressing sense of these women being trapped in repetition and themselves, and perhaps that’s what Irma seeks to convey. But lives – or performances – that don’t change aren’t very compelling.
Charo Oquet’s messy, exuberant The Miami Flyers, on the other hand, was very different from the exquisitely crafted composition of the first two pieces. Oquet, a Dominican artist and well known Miami figure with an outsize presence, was inspired by raras, or community musical street parades, in Little Haiti, where drummers and musicians blowing on horns of cheap metal or construction materials lead groups of singing, dancing people. Her towering set features a bright-colored, large stepped structure strung with banners and surrounded by baskets filled with instruments and colorful stuff to wear or bang, while Oquet rummages noisily around this giant altar. A film shows the group Kriz Rara in Little Haiti, with a voiceover by Oquet telling a story of joining the parade, and a bizarre, slightly frightening incident that lends a mystical edge to her tale.
Members of Kriz Rara join Oquet, decked in extravagant hat and trailing wildly colored tulle and satin, waving arms and hips and screeching wildly on a whistle, leads an indoor rara parade – its energy transforming the cloistered space. Whoever chooses to join her (and Oquet may not give you much choice) will get a taste of a messy, magical Miami ritual. (On Saturday, Oquet will take it to the streets, when she and Kriz Rara will continue to Little Haiti for the real thing. Join them if you dare.)
(A note - all three works on this week’s and last week’s Here & Now program benefited enormously from the striking and often beautifully dramatic lighting design by Terrence Brunn, who is Miami Light’s programs manager.)
If you go
What: Here & Now Program II, with Jenny Larsson’s "On the Other Side of the Lake," Natalia Lassalle-Morillo’s "Irma," and Charo Oquet’s "The Miami Flyers"
When: 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
Where: The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami
Info: $15-$25; miamilightproject.com or 305.576.4350