ProjectLIMB's Re-Vision: Two Dancers' Love Story Transforms South Beach

Categories: Dance, Public Art
Project Limb.JPG
Gabriel Forestieri and Marla Phelan of ProjectLIMB
Some artists dream of performing on stage. Others dream of carrying their craft beyond the stage to blur the line between art and everyday life. Dancers Gabriel Forestieri and Marla Phelan of ProjectLIMB fall into the latter category, and they'll be showing Miami Beach how to make a more expressive use of space when they perform their al fresco Re-Vision at Lummus Park Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m.

The duo, who are real-life lovers, say the performance is a portrayal of a chance encounter between a man and a woman during which "one completely transforms the other." Over the course of 50 minutes, the dance will travel from the intersection of 14th Street and Ocean Drive all the way to -- and into -- the water. Targeted lighting will highlight the performance and delineate spaces on the sand as the dancers' twists, contortions, and expressions unravel their tumultuous love story.



Forestieri studied theater and dance at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA. A classically trained dancer, he began an "extra-curricular" exploration of site-specific dance while still an undergraduate. "Many of my friends were jazz musicians, and so we would work together and do a lot of improvisational work... and then we started to do things outside, just because we weren't [getting permission from] the school. We would also take over a space like the student lounge and put on a show there, or do it at an art gallery," Forestieri said. "So it began through improvisation."

In 1999, Forestieri moved to San Francisco where he began dancing professionally in other choreographer's productions, meanwhile working on environmental restoration with the Americorp Program. One of the projects he participated in involved converting a parking lot back into a salt marsh. "I was always outside when I was working, and it was a really powerful thing for me to change the landscape," he said. "And it was huge for me to see that transformation - to watch what was possible and to really come to know a place. When you grow up in the suburbs and the city, you know places by shop and streets, not by plants and hills. It's a different way of knowing the place."

This growing connection to nature spawned a frustration with the confined spaces of darkened theaters, so he began putting on performances outdoors, including one particularly arduous number that spanned 16 miles and involved nine other dancers he met along the trail. But his studies of traditional "indoor dance" were not quite over. Shortly thereafter, Forestieri moved to New York where he pursued and received his master's of fine arts in dance from New York University.

During his studies there, he choreographed dances that had large and important themes -- from water, to bio-tech, to music -- but in light of his experiences in San Francisco, the pieces still felt small. "It was controlled, in a theater where only a few people [were] going to come, people involved in the dance community," he said. "But when I was working outside, it was bringing in people who had never seen dance. It felt much more enmeshed with the world, because you're in a space where everyone is, and you're changing the dynamic of that space just by acting differently," he said.

And so he began finding opportunities to integrate site-specific outdoor performances into his curriculum. It was then that he coined the name ProjectLIMB to describe these alternative performances. "When people see you outside, they say, 'Oh, you're doing martial arts,' or 'Oh, you're doing yoga, or ballet, or hip-hop,'" Forestieri said. "But when you're doing a movement they don't recognize immediately, they're like 'What are you doing?' And that was powerful for me, to see the jarring effect it had on people."

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