Broward Center’s ‘Men Who Dance’ challenges ideas of masculinity
By Jordan Levin
Nov 25, 2020 at 5:00 PM
When he first planned his “Men Who Dance” program for last May, Rafi Maldonado was inspired by the idea of exploring and challenging ideas of masculinity in his art form. But after months of quarantine and restrictions, the showcase - now set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving - has another motivation: to lift up artists and audiences through live performance at a traumatic time.
“People say all the time that art is transformative,” said Maldonado, a veteran Miami jazz and contemporary dance teacher and choreographer. “The doctors are going to do a great job healing our bodies. What happens after that? That’s when artists come in. They can heal us differently, help us process information differently. That’s what art does, is be there in times of crisis.
“I see that as our mandate - to be there as soon as people can be there.”
“Men Who Dance,” which includes many of Miami’s top dance artists and companies, is set for Nov. 28 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. The event will be one of the first live shows at the venue, as it - like Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center and other groups - wrestles with how to keep the performing arts alive.
“People in the [arts] industry have been hit hardest and will be in a tough way longer,” said Kelley Shanley, CEO of the Broward Center, which has laid off all but 50 of its 500 employees. “We need to live with this virus because it’s going to be for a long time.”
Shanley said that Maldonado and others involved with the show “have the desire to overcome all the obstacles, take some risk, and give audiences what [they want] to see and artists an opportunity to perform. You’ve got to have great admiration for them - and we do.”
The Broward Center has worked with Cleveland Clinic to add safety procedures to its shows. Among the changes: Only 176 people will be able to attend the performance at the 584-seat Amaturo Theater, situated in groups of two or four away from the stage and 6 feet apart in all directions. Masks will be required.
Additionally, the venue has improved its HVAC system with better filtering and more outside air circulation, according to Shanley. Safeguards for the dancers include allowing just four onstage at a time, requiring they stay masked until they enter, and having only two people per dressing room.
“Men Who Dance” is a project of Maldonado’s Inter-American Choreographic Institute, or ICI, which he launched in 2014 with the aim of developing dance stories unique to the Americas - whether of Western pioneers in the United States or the Brazilian slaves who created capoeira.
As he traveled to work around the world, Maldonado became fascinated by how men are portrayed. (In addition to teaching at New World School of the Arts and at Miami City Ballet School, Maldonado became artistic director of Ballet Metropolitano de Medellin in Colombia in 2018.)
“Within our own art form, we have these stereotypes. We have to deconstruct these labels. This is not just machismo,” he says. “Whenever there is any sort of artistic intimacy onstage, many people are queasy about it if it’s the same gender. Or if the female is the stronger. There’s something wrong with that. I want to take this exploration to other countries and cultures.”
Saturday’s show reflects Maldonado’s long history and many connections in the Miami dance community, as well as multiple reactions to themes of masculinity, the pandemic, and performing.
Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, led by former MCB dancers Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra, will contribute three pieces: “Shogun,” Brazilian-Japanese Ivonice Satie’s duet inspired by her grandfather and the relationship between a martial arts master and disciple; “Fiebre,” a quartet from a piece by Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada; and “Partida,” a solo by Dimensions dancer Ryan Nicolas DeAlexandro inspired by the exhilaration of performing again.
Eriberto Jimenez, leader of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, which lent its Little Havana headquarters for rehearsals, will present the duet “Unbound,” danced to Florida Grand Opera tenor Dylan Elza singing a Donizetti aria. And Dance NOW! Miami will offer a new work, “In the Eye of the Cytokine Storm,” and a solo from “Lacrymosa,” created by South Florida-raised Joffrey Ballet dancer Edward Stierle in reaction to the AIDS epidemic, which killed him in 1991, when he was just 23 - a poignant reflection of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Capoeira dancer Gustavo Guru will perform the Brazilian mix of dance and martial arts, while New World School graduate Enrique Villacreses will do his own funk/contemporary solo. Choreographer Ray Sullivan, whom Maldonado got to know while teaching at Miami City Ballet, will bring “Connected Sight,” a duet honoring the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, from his Tango Out project - exploring tango’s male roots and tense interplay of sexuality and power.
Maldonado’s ICI plans to open with his “On The Sixth Day,” a trio invoking Adam and the beginning of the world, and to close with former Miami City Ballet colleague Liz Malm’s “Resonate.”
For Ariel Rose, a rising choreographer who is also a Miami City Ballet dancer, creating for “Men Who Dance” has taken on new meaning since the onset of the pandemic. The overwhelming impact of the pandemic, quarantine, the longing to dance, and the difficult, uncertain efforts to bring back live performance, all have become part of his piece, “Solstice in Solace.”
When Maldonado first invited him, Rose planned to explore the closeness between Miami City Ballet stars Renan Cerdeiro and Kleber Rebello, childhood friends who studied dance together in their native Brazil.
“It’s not about homosexuality but about friendship,” says Rose. “They represent two artists who depend and lean on each other to absorb everything that’s happened in the world.”
The trio rehearsed in person at the National YoungArts Foundation’s JewelBox studio, and Miami City Ballet is allowing Rose, for the first time, to present one of his dances as a representative of the troupe.
“For me, it felt like a long winter, an eclipse, this absence of art,” says Rose, who just turned 30. “For my generation, this has been a defining era. We’ve seen 9/11, the stock market crash, the immigrant crisis. COVID made me look back on my life and what’s happened in this country.
“I’m trying to channel all those feelings into this piece.”
If you go
WHAT: Inter-American Choreographic Institute’s “Men Who Dance”