LGBTQ South Florida

Pioneer Winter’s revised take on the politics of personal power

Choreographer Pioneer Winter’s background in community health, leadership and education informs his work, lending it a sharp edge of social critique.
Choreographer Pioneer Winter’s background in community health, leadership and education informs his work, lending it a sharp edge of social critique. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

For many choreographers, a new project is an opportunity to dig into fresh ideas. But for local choreographer Pioneer Winter, his latest work, “Reprise,” returns to the same terrain he has been exploring for the past few years.

“Reprise” premieres Thursday and Friday at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium On.Stage Black Box Theater.

In its conception, “Reprise” began as a commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, when members of the LGBTQ community fought back against a police raid, igniting the gay rights movement in the United States.

Winter, 30, questioned why the 50th anniversary is more important than the 49th. As he began working out the piece with his performance collective, he found himself asking who had been left out of that history.

Winter’s background in community health, leadership and education informs his work, lending it a sharp edge of social critique. Of the Stonewall history, he says, “There are a lot of key figures that have been forgotten — there’s a focus on the white, cisgendered gay man as the hero of the riots, when really it was homeless youth and people of transgender experience, and drag queens, and people of color, that were excluded from the story.”

Over time, “Reprise” became an opportunity for Winter to look beyond the original idea, to ask the same questions he has always been asking.

In the 2015 “Host” and last year’s “Forced Entry and Other Love Stories,” Winter focused on power relationships and bodies. His collective of performers includes individuals with varying degrees of social and physical currency. Some are straight, some are gay, transgender, disabled, male-bodied, female-bodied, older and younger, more or less athletic, varied in race and ethnicity.

In the theoretically inclusive LGBTQ community, he says, “there are still those who are more privileged and those who are less privileged, those who have more visibility and those who don’t, those who are considered more attractive and those who aren’t.”

Forms of personal and collective power have figured prominently in his recent work. And by extension, he has focused over and again on the dominance of authority, and the control of one body or group over another.

“Reprise” is even more specifically a return to the themes and ideas of last year’s “Forced Entry.” Some of the scenes in “Forced Entry” have been reworked with an altered tone, a different angle, or new power relationships between the performers. Further, his cast is much the same with two key additions: Hector Machado and Niurca Marquez.

Machado is, according to Winter, “the member of the cast who in real life has the least amount of privilege among us. He is a black gay man who two years ago had both of his legs amputated when he went into a diabetic coma, so he’s now disabled, black, gay.”

Machado, who recently completed a Master in Fine Arts degree at California Institute of the Arts, approached Winter about working with the collective as a stage manager. When Winter realized they had known each other from younger days studying tap, he recalls, “I was like, OK, but I’d rather a performer.” Machado motioned at his lower body and said, “Even like this?” And Winter said, “Especially like that.”

Winter has given Machado a power role in “Reprise,” where he has agency over how long the other performers hold poses. “There are scenes where he is using a megaphone,” says Winter, “and he’s walking the cast through an anatomical or physiological instruction on how to comply, or how to be perceived as compliant by someone in a position of authority like a police officer.” Winter describes this section as the anatomy of a surrender.

Machado, who has training in tap and step, and Marquez, a choreographer in her own right who specializes in flamenco, share a percussive duet. “How loud does someone need to shout in order to be heard?” asks Winter. “They are shouting with their feet, their hands, their vocal chords, trying to be noticed by each other.”

When discussing this new project as a whole, Winter argues that the idea of a reprise is not about rehashing something old, but about tirelessly asking the same question to gain deeper understanding. This is a kind of listening, as a way to heal social ills.

Winter avoids the label of activist, but his work has more to do with social justice, community and inclusivity than about aesthetics. The product might best be described as theater, and it can be visually and viscerally harsh to watch. But, Winter says, “we can’t shy away from difficult conversations.”

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, music and performing arts news.

If you go

▪ What: Pioneer Winter Collective’s “Reprise”

▪ When: Thursday and Friday at 8:30 p.m.

▪ Where: Miami-Dade County Auditorium On.Stage Black Box, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami

▪ Info: Tickets available at www.reprise.eventbrite.com or at the door; www.pioneerwinter.com.

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