Choreographer Rosie Herrera's Favorite 2011 Performances

Categories: Dance
Rosie Herrera Dance Co Courtesy of the Adrienne Arsht Center. Photo by Seth Browarnik for WorldRedEye.com.jpg
Courtesy Adrienne Arsht Center
As 2011 comes to an end, we're getting all nostalgic about the great moments in Miami culture that took place over the past year. And we know we're not alone. So we've asked some of Miami's top artists, writers, film producers and other cultural geniuses about their favorite 2011 memories.

Hialeah's own Rosie Herrera had another big year in 2011. The former showgirl, video vixen, and New World graduate continued to make her mark on the local and national contemporary dance scene. In January, Rosie Herrera Dance Theater had its Miami premiere at the Adrienne Arsht Center. The company presented a new version of Various Stages of Drowning: A Cabaret, a work that that had been seen in an early form two years before in the Miami Light Project's Here and Now Festival. The company also debuted Pity Party, a new work commissioned by the Arsht along with the most prestigious showcase for dance in the United States, the American Dance Festival. The ADF, which takes place each summer in Durham, North Carolina, showcases the most important choreographers in the country and around the world. When festival director Charles Reinhart retired after 43 years, he included Herrera in the slate of his favorite choreographers presented in his final festival. Her company will perform Dining Alone, the piece ADF commissioned last summer, at the Arsht in March 2012.

Rosie Herrera Dance Co 2 Courtesy of the Adrienne Arsht Center. Photo by Seth Browarnik for WorldRedEye.com.jpg
Courtesy Adrienne Arsht Center
Pina
Last week, we sat next to Rosie Herrera at the sneak preview of Wim Wenders' new movie about the late German choreographer Pina Bausch. Herrera already selected watching Pina as one of her top five dance moments in 2011 -- even before she'd seen the film. Herrera has idolized Bausch ever since she first saw video of her Tanztheater Wuppertal while a student at New World. Sitting in the Coral Gables Art Cinema, Herrera looked like one of the dancers in the film -- or like a postmodern Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz -- in a blue and white polka dot dress with a long, flowing skirt and a pair of bright yellow pumps that matched the yellow, 3-D glasses she wore over her red spectacles. At one moment, one of Bausch's dancers lay her head on a table in a gesture reminiscent of a section in Dining Alone. Herrera let out an f-bomb that echoed through the theater. "People always compare me to her," Herrera explained later. She says Pity Party was motivated in part by her grief over Bausch's death. "Dancing for her was the only thing I ever wanted to do my whole life," she said, misty-eyed. "Now that's not even an option."

Martha Clarke at American Dance Festival
Herrera got the chance to know renowned choreographer and theater director Martha Clarke last summer at ADF. "She kind of served like a mentor with me," Herrera explains. "She shared her experiences as a woman choreographer. I found a lot of solace in that, knowing that she struggled with a lot of the things I struggle with." At the premiere of Clarke's new work-in-progress, Etudes for Italy, Herrera says, "From the minute that the curtain goes up, I could sense her. I could hear her voice. I could smell her. I thought: This is an American master."

Rosie Herrera Dance Theater at American Dance Festival
When Herrera had her first full evening debut at ADF in 2010, she remembers: "When I saw my massive curtain on stage and they were doing 'Titanic' [from Various Stages of Drowning], I thought, 'I can't believe this is happening to me.'" Her return in 2011 was different. "I took a lot of risks with my new work, Dining Alone," she recalls. "I was really scared that people wouldn't receive it the same way. It's sparse. It's personal. It's haunting. It was a big departure from the work I presented the past two seasons at ADF.." Herrera was equally pleased by the warm reception, and by her place in retiring director Reinhart's circle: "This was Charles' last year at ADF, and he took the time to introduce me to [choreographers] Paul Taylor and Martha Clarke and Eiko and Koma, as if I was anything. I was honored to think that he felt that I was worthy enough to be in the same room with all those greats."

Rosie Herrera Dance Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center
Tickets were hard to come by for Herrera's run at the Arsht, with crowds left waiting in the lobby of the Carnival Studio Theater every show. "It felt so incredible to be received the way I was received," says Herrera. "We sold out every night. I felt like my decision to stay here in Miami was the right one." It wasn't just the numbers, but the composition of the crowd that pleased her. "I was so proud to look in the audience and see gay and straight, young and old, theater people and dance people and opera people," she notes. "These are the people I make the work for and they're finally seeing it -- and they're loving it."

Rosie Herrera Retrospectacles at the Lotus House
The company was invited to participate in the concert series for residents of Lotus House, a transitional shelter for homeless women and their children. "We did it in the garden," says Herrera of the informal setting. "We had no wings and had [dancer] Ana Mendez's boyfriend pressing stop and play on a boom box. For 35 minutes, they were completely enthralled. I felt like we were on the same stage together. It was an honor to perform for women who went through crisis and were on the other side. I thought: Isn't that who should be seeing the work anyway? Isn't that who should be benefiting from the freedom of art?"

--Celeste Fraser Delgado, artburstmiami.com

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