Bridges, Not Walls: Dance Now Miami Sends A Political Message Through Dance

Mar 23, 2017

Dance Now! Miami’s latest dance piece is a direct response to President Donald Trump.

“Bridges Not Walls” was conceived during the presidential race when the then-presidential candidate Trump repeatedly declared that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“When Donald Trump came up and made those comments about immigrants, specifically coming from Mexico, we were at that time in the process of creating a collaboration with a Mexican [dance] company and so we thought that that was the moment to respond,” said Dance Now Co-Director  Diego Salterini.

Salterini said that as the dance took shape he knew he wanted to add it to the company’s repertoire. It's a 30-minute piece broken up into group and solo vignettes exploring identity, immigration and civil rights. 

Hannah Baumgarten, co-director of the company, said that throughout the creative process she challenged the dancers to remember a time they felt like outsiders as they embodied the themes, but also to remember their commonalities.

“I don't think that there's any question that it's a political statement,” said Baumgarten. “The concept was using the language of dance, which is the language that we have at our disposal, the language that we're the best at, to bridge that distance and to create a common ground.”
 

Throughout the piece a video plays in the background, interspersing scenes from different parts of history like the civil rights movement and showing archival images of people holding up signs that read “Jim Crow Must Go” and “Freedom Now.”

At times the images go away completely, leaving behind just black and white grainy pixels.

Benika Grant, one of the dancers, said even if you’re an American in America you can still feel like an outsider.

“Everywhere you go being black you kind of experience a bit of racism,” she said.

Grant said she draws on those experiences in her solo, in which she represents a refugee trying to swim to get out of her country and make it to the other side -- but then, there’s a wall.

She said for her  it’s a metaphor that can apply to being a black woman. 

Dancer Luke Stockton performs a solo to the poem “Home” by Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somali poet whose words have been used on protest signs in rallies against Trump’s immigration policies.

"you have to understand, 
no one puts their children in a boat 
unless the water is safer than the land. 

who would choose to spend days 
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles traveled meant something more than journey."

There’s anguish in Stockton’s movements, moments of almost freedom, lightness and then moments of constriction.

Stockton said he’s a very quiet person who rarely speaks openly about his beliefs, but through this dance he finally gets to take a public  stance.

“As a gay male that recently got married to his husband last year and with all the fights for equal rights, you need something to be said and to be heard,” said Stockton, adding he’s doing that through movement.

Salterini, the company’s co-director, said he believes the piece will resonate in South Florida.

“Here in South Florida, being a very diverse immigrant community, this piece is not only focusing on the refugee or on the wall,” he said. “It's focusing on the instinct that we all have to say,  'I am different from you.' "

If You Go

What: Dance Now! Miami “Contemporanea”
When: 8:30 p.m.  Friday, March 24 
Where: Aventura Arts and Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St. 
Tickets $35.
For more information:  dancenowmiami.org or call 305-975-8489