Performing Arts

Miami festival Here & Now begins Thursday at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse

Here & Now, the showcase of new performance work by South Florida-based artists, presented by Miami Light Project, is now in its 15th year. But for all its daring, smarts and current complexities, Here & Now started as “a very simple idea.”

“It has grown over the years so it has more layers now,” says Beth Boone, artistic and executive director of the Miami Light Project, the nonprofit presenting organization for Here & Now: 2014, A Knight Emerging Artist Series takes place Thursday through May 17 at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse.

Doing a festival like this was Boone’s intent from the start, she says. “When I was hired in 1998, the board asked me what I would do in programming and I had a two-part answer: I would focus on internationalizing our program … and just as equally, I was interested in investing in the artists who were living in our community or had recently graduated from our schools.

“Once you do that kind of thing and start investing in artists in your own community, you see your community change and you see the artists change,” Boone says.

Many of the artists from Here & Now ended up going to international events such as the Edinburgh Festival, Prague Theater Festival and the Dance Platform in Mali, notes Boone.

This year’s event will showcase work by chorographer Letty Bassart; multimedia artist Abel Cornejo; dancer, choreographer and performance artist Ana Mendez and the team of visual artist David Rohn and dancer and cabaret performer Danilo de la Torre.

In the ever-changing social, political and economic landscape of South Florida, 15 years is a lifetime for a nonprofit cultural organization.

That Here & Now continues and, if anything, it has gotten stronger, speaks to the resilience and commitment of those involved with the Miami Light Project, but it also suggests that the environment for the arts in South Florida is evolving.

“In general, the community has matured, the artists have matured and consequently, the proposals I’d say are now more sophisticated, more nuanced, more complex that they were 15 year ago,” says Boone. “That doesn’t mean they were not good 15 years ago, they were, but the artistic community has matured and I think that’s a direct result of organizations like Tigertail, like Rhythm Foundation, like Miami Light Project, like the Miami-Dade College Department of Cultural Affairs and the resources we now get from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. ... All of us have been investing in the community for all these years, and you start to see the results.

“And there is no getting around the importance of Art Basel,” says Boone. “When that arrived [in 2002] the profile of Miami radically changed. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

For Miami- born and based Bassart, having “such support system behind you … it’s wildly helpful. It allows the artist to concentrate on the creative content. It’s an enormous gift.”

Bassart’s new work, Unnamable, features vocalist Gema Corredera, dancer Shaneeka Harrell and an original score by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain.

“My work always sees text and movement as the two legs of the piece,” Bassart says. “Sometimes the text is used as a trampoline for movement and vice versa. In this particular piece there is spoken text, it contains an open letter, a stream of consciousness [text], it contains a little excerpt from a [James] Baldwin essay, poetry and also a series of texts as lists. Gema is vocalizing in this piece. Her work is abstract. And Shaneeka, who is also an actress and sings, is going to be speaking most of the text.”

Cornejo’s Utopia D2H, which draws from the plane hijackings to Cuba in the 1970s and ’80s, is an interdisciplinary piece about “the human desire for fitting in and finding utopia.” Mendez’s Portal, is a ritualistic dance piece inspired during a summer residency in the Everglades.

Rohm and de la Torre’s Sexual Offenders, described as a “surrealistic theatrical work,” draws from events in a small Florida Keys town in 2008 after a local government official announced that he would begin sexual reassignment therapy. Zaldivar’s Hesperus is Phosphorus is an interactive exhibit of a series of paintings on glass but also includes a short performance.

“The entire spirit of Here & Now is to incite artists to experiment and take risks,” says Boone.

But the program is also “about really investing in Miami Dade artists, giving them substantial commission fees, offering them production help, teaching them about marketing, public relations, fund raising and offering them support beyond that, including access to the space free of charge, teaching opportunities, residencies and master classes with visiting artists.”

For Bassart, such an approach is invaluable.

“I’m a native of Miami and I feel … that Miami has always had a lot of space if you had the will to create. But now it seems that there are also systems in place to meet that will.”