Impressions of Miami Light Project’s Here & Now 2013

Arts / Article

Miami Light Project’s Here & Now festival offered Miami theatergoers a glimpse into the creative minds of Miami-based performing artists Liony Garcia, Matthew Evan Taylor, Ivonne Batanero and Shira Abergel. The artists created works, commissioned by the Miami Light Project (a Knight Emerging Artist Series) that were simultaneously lucid and illuminating, hysterical and absurd, coherent and dehiscent.

Liony Garcia. Photo by Neil de la Flor

Liony Garcia’s solo performance, “In Lieu of Flowers,” was emblematic and surprisingly tight. Although the concept was abstract, Garcia created a choreography that mirrored the transitory nature of a human life. Like life, Garcia’s salacious movements — imagine lots of floor work, face down/bottom up, arms and legs rigidly extended — were simultaneously disjointed and fluid. His body insinuated what a human life goes through from beginning to end and, most importantly, what happens to that body between these two points. Death emerged as the obvious theme, but the theme of radical disconnection with the world seemed just as important. Garcia rarely faced the audience and this created a distance — a disconnection — that was startling and strange. It worked because this is what it feels like when the flowers are gone.

Ivonne Batanero&squot;s "Project: Invasion" | Photo by Neil de la Flor

Ivonne Batanero’s “Project: Invasion.” Photo by Neil de la Flor

Watching a marathon session of Star Trek Voyager before Here & Now: not a good idea. When Ivonne Batanero’s “Project: Invasion” unfurled, I couldn’t escape making references to the Borg, a powerful and violent alien collective that assimilates other space-faring species using nano-probes. In a way, this is what Batanero’s “Project: Invasion” was about — the takeover of the body by cancer cells. However, the use of kitschy and oddly timed humor distracted me from the content of the narrative. It relegated the content of the performance to the background as the dancers ricocheted across the stage like deranged weeble wobbles. The Jack and the Beanstalk-esque inspired costumes posed a problem as well. These two elements, humor and costume, overshadowed a gorgeous choreography that poked creepy fun at cancer rather than using humor as a tool to take us inside of a cancer cell.

Matthew Evan Taylor&squot;s "Elvrutu&squot;s Fall" | Photo by Neil de la Flor

Matthew Evan Taylor’s “Elvrutu’s Fall.” Photo by Neil de la Flor

I was disappointed in Matthew Evan Taylor’s “Elvrutu’s Fall,” however I admire the sumptuous setting, the elegiac soundscapes and the gorgeous movements spawned by the dancers. Taylor forced the audience to experience his work from multiple perspectives. Using live music, voice, dance and marionettes, Taylor gave the audience a panoply of elements to consider, but it was too much. The narrative moved a bit too slowly and “Elvrutu’s” journey into and through life, death, stasis and transformation felt overloaded for a 30-minute performance. Taylor took a risk, and he should continue to take more.

Shira Abergel | Photo by Neil de la Flor

Shira Abergel. Photo by Neil de la Flor

Shira Abergel’s “Appalachian Squall” was a nuanced and coherent narrative that, like Matthew Evan Taylor’s work, took a huge risk. Abergel used multiple elements — live music by Avacado Estate, old archival & new silent film footage and theater — to create a concise performance in 30 minutes or less that took us inside a dystopian world fueled by alcohol addiction, obsession with love and blind faith. Abergel balanced humor with drama, tone with tempo, and engaged the audience. Her work reminded me of the complexity and depth of Natasha Tsakos’ “Omen,” which debuted last year at Here & Now. However, instead of looking to the future as Tsakos did, Abergel looked to the past to reveal the things, the addictions and obsessions that still plague us today, to help us see what it is and why it is we cast them into the shadows of our homes, our families and even in the places where we worship and seek salvation. Abergel guided us through loaded subject matter with precision and clarity.

The Miami Light Project Presents Here & Now: 2013 from February 7-16 at 8 p.m. at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26 St., Miami. Tickets: $25, non-members; $20, members; $15, students and seniors. Tickets are available at miamilightproject.com or by calling 866-811-4111.