Whatever you might say about choreographer/director/producer/filmmaker/ LGBTQ teacher and mentor/and all around cultural enabler Pioneer Winter, he certainly has a following. His work, what he supports, what he thinks about and the ideas he voices, speak to and for people. Last Thursday the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood was packed for "Forced Entry and other love stories," his latest dance and performance piece. There were a lot of gay men (the OutMiami Foundation was sponsoring - Winter says that most young LGBTQ professionals lean towards Broadway and traditional theater, so he's trying to get them to stretch their artistic boundaries), and a lot of ardent-looking 20-somethings.
"Forced Entry" has a mission - or missions, maybe. It’s credited to the Pioneer Winter Collective, and the material is clearly derived from the six performers’ experiences and selves. Winter wants us to be more accepting of people whose bodies or sexual preferences or physical identities, the ways they show who they are, are different from the so-called norm. (Whatever that means. Like the meme says "Mom, what's normal? It's a setting on the dryer, dear.") Sometimes he also seems to want to show off those bodies, to shock us and put them in our face, just because. Sometimes “Forced Entry” could feel a bit oh-poor-us. But often enough, it was provocative in just the way you want performance to be provocative, making you think about something you hadn't or feel for someone you hadn't identified with before; startling, exposed, unnerving, unexpectedly loving.
"Forced Entry" was made up of segments mixing dance or movement, and monologues/dialogues. June Romero, who is transgender and, with long hair, red lipstick, and black velvet dress, looked traditionally feminine (even with the muscular shoulders) - until s/he took off the dress to show a powerful chest and narrow hips. Romero traded insults "trannie trash" "dyke" and then relationship frustrations, with Katrina Weaver, whose bulky CrossFit physique made her a kind of born-this-way female equivalent to Romero - as each of them balanced, precariously, on a towering plastic platform shoe, holding hands to stay upright. "You wear it better" Weaver told Romero. "It hurts" s/he says. Because beauty (waxing, high heels) hurts, and so do relationships, and so does figuring out who and what you are.
My favorite segment was with beefy Frank Campisano, who looks like an elderly bodybuilder (he wrestles with Weaver a couple times, before huddling under a bench for much of the show.) Until Winter interrogates him and we discover that Campisano used to be a ballet dancer. He whirls and leaps, grace still flaring in his stiff, clumsy body; telling Winter and us how much he loved dancing, how much he still loves it, even though, as he tells us, wincing, that it hurts.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Intimacy mostly seemed to equal pain in "Forced Entry." Winter stripped naked, and the others surrounded him, pushing him and hurling him roughly to the floor. Presumably being naked was a metaphor for exposing himself emotionally - but it also didn't seem entirely necessary, and made me wonder if Winter would have stripped if he didn't have such a beautifully sculpted physique. And why emotion and intimacy kept getting equated with pain; that happens, of course, but it's a kind of openness that can become reductive, righteous. (Maybe that also has to do with the way Winter handles getting close to people. He told ArtburstMiami that “Dance is a way for me to express myself emotionally because I handle things differently from other people.")
Another segment, where Winter told a story about his mother dying of lupus, while Lize-Lotte Pitlo clung to one end of a bench that the others hold tipped at an angle, scrabbling and struggling to keep from sliding to the bottom. That image stood in powerfully for Winter's mother's battle to live, and seemed more honest and powerful.
The audience loved all of it, applauding warmly for each segment, each performer. "Forced Entry" didn't seem to be just a show that spoke to them, but one that spoke for them. And Winter seems to have tapped into that. Which is a powerful thing.