Knight-funded performance fuses classical Indian dance and Afro-Caribbean poetry

arts / Article

Photo: Ranjana Warier.

Marci Cancio-Bello is a program coordinator at the Miami Book Fair International.

When someone outside of Florida mentions Miami, most people think of sunny beaches, palm trees, retirement and perhaps Cuba. But for those of us living in Miami, a rich kaleidoscope of cultures rises in the mind. Miami is home to myriad Latin American groups, and so much more, including a large Indian population. People carry their art with them, from city to city and continent to continent. The result is the fusion and creation of brand new artistic collaborations.

Enter Ranjana Warier, a nationally seeded chess player and senior cyber-security computer engineer who also happens to be a classically trained professional dancer and the artistic director of Rhythms School of Dance in South Florida. The recipient of multiple artistic grants, her choreography work has been commissioned by organizations all over South Florida.

In 2012, she was named a Knight Arts Challenge grant winner for Demystifying Indian Classical Dance, a project designed to “promote cross-cultural understanding by showcasing traditional Indian dances through adaptations of Western fairy tales.” The result was a collaboration among five Indian dance studios to stage a captivating, full-length production of “Anvita,” an adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty” in Indian classical dances.

Ranjana Warier’s “Anvita,” via YouTube.

Since then, Warier has continued to try to bridge gaps in South Florida, both culturally and artistically. Wanting to do more to help facilitate important connections, she began to ask questions: What makes Miami so… Miami? What new conversations could be started, where previously there had only been silence? How can we, who are so different, all define ourselves as American? What happens when a classical Indian dancer interprets Afro-Caribbean poetry? In 2014, she was awarded a second Knight Arts Challenge grant to try to answer those questions through a new kind of collaboration.

Warier has joined forces with Adrian Castro, a poet, performer and interdisciplinary artist who has received multiple fellowships. Miami-born and raised, Castro is also a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and “babalawo” (an Ifá priest).

“Articulating the search for a cohesive Afro-Caribbean-American identity, I honor myth on one hand and history on the other,” he says of his poetry. “I address the migratory experience from Africa to the Caribbean to North America, and the eventual clash of cultures… The goal has always been integration–of body, spirit and history. It is why I am a poet.”

Adrian Castro. Photo by Pedro Portal.

Warier and Castro are working together closely on their new production, “Surya: The Eternal Rhythm,” to interpret text into the fluidity of bodily movement, seeking to create a new understanding of both cultures specific to South Florida. They also hope to inspire others to discover and develop their own collaborative work that stretches traditions and redefines expressions of American culture. They have partnered with Miami Book Fair at Miami-Dade College, also a Knight Arts grantee, to launch a website, Poetry Dance, which will be updated frequently.

“Surya: The Eternal Rhythm” will be performed for two nights only. The first and grand performance will take place on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 at the Miramar Cultural Center. A second, more intimate performance will be held in Miami-Dade College’s auditorium on Saturday, April 2, followed by an artistic conversation between Warier and Castro.

Tickets for the Jan. 9 performance are now for sale online. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with the opportunity to purchase authentic Indian food before the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

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