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New and Experimental Music,
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Miami Light Project’s Here and Now 2021 Dares to Ask Important Questions

Miami Light Project’s Light Box at the Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood was open to the public with strict COVID-19 safety protocols and sold out at the opening of the 2021 Here and Now edition last Friday.

This year’s festival hosts eight commissioned works in dance, theater, and music by Miami-based artists. The equal representation of disciplines and gender covers various artistic commentaries about human inner and outer worlds, from introspection, through social activism, to imageries of a futuristic cultural landscape.

The opening event featured Enrique Villacreses’s GoldenSociety, José Manuel Domínguez’s Watch Out, Joe!, Dorothy Hindman’s Questions We Don’t Dare Ask Ourselves, and Sol Ruiz with her band Positive Vibration Nation. On October 8 and 9, the second program will include performers Brittany Williams with Swamp Body, Roxana Barba and Amaru in Heaven, Kayla Castellon and Patricia Rose Suarez with their Closed Rehearsals, and Shamar Wayne Watt’s Dawning of the Suns.

Miami-based dancer and choreographer Enrique Villacreses opened the festival with his work GoldenSociety, painting his vision of a cursed secret human society living underground in colors beyond golden. People in it wore silver outfits and eventually reached a state of perfection in unity after putting in a great community effort. Likewise, the efforts that Villacreses’ dance troupe made last Friday in collaboration with the composer Kael Baez and sculptor Don Lambert were worth their weight in gold.

Musically, GoldenSociety brings multiple themes, from epic ones to those filled with fantasy, drama, and elements of chaos, supported by sustained harmonies, hip hop beats, and synth-pop sonorities. Staying in tune with the variety of musical shifts, six dancers effectively displayed all those emotional changes. The fast-paced choreography emphasized binary narratives of good-evil, individua-community, futurism-nostalgia. However, when the dancers built their perfect society, they did so collaboratively, using four objects on stage – four pyramids.

Villacreses underlined his utopian metaphor with these functional objects. They not only visually underpinned the movements and stances but also were brought as symbols for numerous interpretations. If we take only one of the associations for pyramids, i.e., the belief that they channel the energy from heavens to earth, then their presence helps GoldenSociety’s characters reach higher realms of consciousness, disregard their ego, and jointly bring members of the community on top of the pyramid construction they built.

In contrast to the first piece, José Manuel Domínguez played his monodrama Watch Out, Joe! Dominguez knows best how it is to be different. As an immigrant and visually impaired person, this Cuban-born theater artist and educator engaged the audience into one scene in a life of a blind person – his life.

Watch Out, Joe! is a monodrama-conversation between him and an uber driver in “real-time,” with an entrancing guitar accompaniment by Brazilian musician Marcos Campello. Balancing between comedy and drama, Dominguez plays with words engaging the audience as active participants in the conversation. One cannot stay a mere observer; one becomes a witness in this scene in which they can take a stance or – choose to turn a blind eye. Therefore, Dominguez underlines these words on stage: “Blind? I’m not talking about me; I’m talking about you.” transferring the ball of anxiety to another side of the court.  

In Domínguez’s intimate storytelling, there is theatre, music, film, and even a Batman, but above all, the activism in art. Although sparking a range of emotions, including empathy, Watch Out, Joe! is a utilitarian piece with a message for the audience to pay attention to all the differences from another perspective.

Likewise, Dorothy Hindman asked Questions We Don’t Dare Ask Ourselves. A reputable composer dared to step into a territory of music, theater, and movement combined, with trust in her Frost School of Music colleagues and collaborators, flutist Jennifer Grim and percussionist Svet Stoyanov, their inventive improvisation and exactness in delivering a complex score.

The sentence “What are the questions we are terrified of?” initiated most of the drama in the piece. It brought more movement, musical expression, and finally, the conversation between the performers. Emphasizing the male and female principles on multiple levels, their apartness and encounter, the composer refers to questions of social distance, isolation, and vulnerability.

In Questions We Don’t Dare Ask Ourselves, Hindman puts a challenge not only in front of herself and her performers but also under our feet by asking: “On whose shoulders are we standing on?”  On whose shoulders are we standing on Here and Now, in 2021?

Hence, we agree upon taking the quest on roots of identity in this work by interpreting folklore elements and holding the mirror in front of our face to see things. Hindman explores musical roots by referring to some of the oldest instruments we know about – a drum and a flute – including pentatonic and Appalachian sound at the end. The visual symbols are white linen clothes, performers’ bare feet, and the movement itself. All this was followed by a marvelous vocal interpretation and impeccable collaborative inventiveness by Grim and Stoyanov.

Wrapping up the event in a festive futuristic spirit, a Grammy-nominated recording artist Sol Ruis and her band performed Positive Vibration Nation, announced as a new full-length multimedia musical theatre rock guaguanco opera. Coming from the year 3050 to preserve Miami culture, with a handful of ‘vestiges’ of the ‘old’ times in fashion and sound (including disco pants and platform shoes, Latin-American carnival decoration, and tribe-rock’n’roll-like outfits) combined with futuristic elements, these musicians of Cuban origin performed on edge between a theatre performance, funk-rock event, carnival, and rumba party. In their quest for roots, they made an actual dance party for the festive closure of the opening event.

In the same spirit as the opening piece, Sol Ruiz said: “Through unity, we gain our powers. We don’t become superheroes unless we unite.” With thoughtful consideration of all the themes in the programing, MLP’s organized a very successful opening night of Here and Now: 2021.

Since the first light turned on in 1999, Miami Light Project’s Here and Now festival has been an innovative and supportive art stage for almost eighty South Florida-based artists. With the opportunities for the emerging and mid-career artists to create new art, MLP helped the local scene to thrive and the generations of artists to emerge.

For October 8-9 Program II event information, visit: