Filed under: At the Center
On Saturday, August 15, the Adrienne Arsht Center ushered in a new kind of crowd as it hosted its first ever hip-hop performance with Mos Def. The mellow, yet infectious artist drew a young and eclectic audience. The performance was infused with hip-hop culture and an unexpected minimalist presentation, maintaining the integrity of the genre – no thrills, no flash, just intelligent lyrics and creative beats that kept the audience on its feet.
Opening was New Orleans rapper Jay Electronica, an abstract musician with a sense of humor. When he wasn’t rapping in his quirky, unconventional style, the artist bantered with the crowd and put on his own version of The Price Is Right theme song.
When Mos Def appeared on stage, with no introduction or hype as he sneaked up behind the orchestral drum set donning plain clothes and a cap, fans hit the ceiling. From that point on, Mos and his DJs, Preservation and Gold Medal Man, conducted the night: mixing the new and the familiar. Beginning with long, slowly paced songs, the crowd built up their excitement as they awaited the artist’s biggest hits like No Hay Nada Mas, Ms. Fat Booty and Umi Says. In between, Mos Def paid homage to the late Michael Jackson as he did his best moonwalk while crooning a slowed-down version of Billie Jean, at which point the audience went wild.
The concert stirred up a whole new energy in the Knight Concert Hall. 70% of the show’s ticket purchases were made by first time buyers to the center. The programming director for this show, Aaron Zimmerman, couldn’t have been happier with the night’s turnout. “Seeing a hip-hop artist on the concert hall stage for the first time in the center’s history was a beautiful thing,” he smiles. Zimmerman has similar artists in mind for upcoming shows, shows that will continue to earn the Adrienne Arsht Center its “street cred” and keep up the spirit that follows.
Filed under: At the Center
This past weekend, over 500 people came and experienced the award-winning music documentary RiseUp as it made its debut in Florida at the Carnival Studio Theater in the Ziff Ballet Opera House. Kicking off the Center’s first members/public programs initiative, RiseUp brought both first-time Arsht Center visitors and long-time Arsht Center members from all walks of life that truly reflected the great diversity of the Miami community.
On an island where reggae is considered the voice of the people and an outlet for survival, RiseUp follows three aspiring artists who seek to “rise up” from obscurity. This documentary is unlike any documentary about Jamaica as it takes the viewer off the beaten path far from any tourist attractions. From the deep countryside to the whirlwind ghettos of Kingston, no matter where you are, the film makes it evident that reggae music is the heartbeat of the culture.
As we celebrate the upcoming theatrical production of The Harder They Come premiering for the first time in the United States at the Adrienne Arsht Center on August 29th, RiseUp reminds us that reggae continues to be the pulse and life blood of Jamaica. Since the 1972 release of the Jimmy Cliff stared film The Harder They Come which swept like wild fire throughout the world that turned a local-grown roots music to the new rock’n’roll, RiseUp takes on the same premise of this classic move to the current times.
Just like the lead character, Ivan Martin, RiseUp follows three various versions of Ivan’s character as each artist struggle in their own unique way for their chance at success. The documentary goes far beyond the widely known Bob Marley and pop-reggae scene as Blotta takes his film crew to the island’s pulsing streets, captures raw talent at its best, and reveals a look into the roots of world phenomena with all the passion a camera can capture.
RiseUp director, Luciano Blotta, was on hand all three nights to answer any and all questions of his five year journey in creating this film. Interestingly enough, Blotta admitted to his audience that he was never a reggae fan before he started RiseUp but now, he cannot listen to anything but reggae.
A rare treat for the Miami audience, RiseUp offered a magical opportunity to immerse for 86 minutes in something truly pure and honest. Among a number of prominent recognitions, RiseUp has already won the Music Documentary Award at AFI/Discovery Channel’s prestigious SILVERDOCS festival in Washington, DC.
Click here to check out more photos from the August 14-16th RiseUp weekend.
In a synchronized blur of movement, rhythm and smiles, all seventy-nine AileyCampers hit the stage as an audience of more than 1,200 people, the largest audience turnout of any AileyCamp performance in the country, filled the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall for AileyCamp Miami’s final performance, Genesis.
In the early afternoon of August 8th, AileyCamp Miami participants gathered on the stage of the Knight Concert Hall for their much-awaited technical rehearsal. Genesis, treated like every other professional production that is presented in Miami’s acoustically-superb venue, had the young performers experiencing the very real and demanding process that veteran dancers put into practice to produce a first-rate performance. All summer long AileyCampers learned teamwork and discipline, and showed evidence of those skills throughout the rehearsal as they helped one another with quick costume changes, whispered to each other words of encouragement and waited patiently for technical cues to be charted.
The final performance opened with choreography to the song “I’ve Been Buked,” a musical excerpt, influenced by the genius of Alvin Ailey himself, taken from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s signature choreographic masterpiece, Revelations. The campers revealed to an amazed audience the fruits of their hard work as they performed in remarkable unison their abstract movements, with twists and turns of hands and bodies reaching powerfully upward.
Following the opening piece, John Richard, president and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center, gave a warm welcome, introduced the AileyCamp Miami Directors and announced that AileyCampers would return to the Adrienne Arsht Center in October, not as performers but instead as guests for Oprah Winfrey’s presentation of the Broadway musical The Color Purple. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, all 79 AileyCampers and their parents will have the opportunity to see a matinee performance of the soul-stirring musical based on the classic Pullitzer-prize winning novel by Alice Walker and Oscar-nominated film by Steven Spielberg. Richard’s announcement of this gift was reinforcement to the graduating class of AileyCamp 2009, standing on each side of the stage, that the performing arts and camp experience would not be forgotten once they left the Arsht Center campus.
After the exciting news was met with boisterous applause, the lights were dimmed once again to set the stage for the 60-minute journey of original created dance work in the genres of modern, jazz, and ballet choreographed by AileyCamp’s dance instructors. Each student also presented an individual spoken word piece written by them, representing the culmination of the work each camper accomplished in the Personal Development and Creative Communications classes.
Each piece was also uniquely costumed. While the white tutus with purple sashes heightened the ballerinas’ graceful and elongated movements, the colorful dress and head gear intensified the West African movement that filled the stage. Empowered by the audience’s thunderous applause and each other’s encouraging words, the boys of AileyCamp took center stage for a special tribute to the late King of Pop. Dressed in the signature Michael Jackson white shirt and black pants, the audience applauded and shouted with enthusiasm as the choreography saw the white gloves slide across the stage. The middle-schoolers impressively took their role as performers seriously throughout the performance. Poised for their finale, the entire AileyCamp Miami Company rushed the stage for one last number.
The culmination of what had been more than 200 applications received and four weeks of intense hard work, turned into a bittersweet evening as 79 AileyCampers gathered on stage for a final bow to a standing ovation. Led by their camp director, Natasha DeVaughn Rigby, AileyCamp Miami 2009 appropriately ended the performance just like they had every other day of camp for the past 4 weeks—by proudly reciting AileyCamp daily affirmations. Fittingly, the last affirmation echoed the impetus of a dedicated staff and the wholehearted efforts of the participants: “I will not use the word “Can’t” to define my possibilities.”
Filed under: At the Center
The fifth season of the 11-time Emmy-nominated hit So You Think You Can Dance came to a magnificent conclusion this month as South Florida’s own, Jeanine Mason, was named the champion. “I never ever imagined this… I never thought that auditioning for the show would lead me to such amazing people,” Mason said.
Having auditioned in February on the Knight Concert Hall stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center with the hundreds of others in hopes of boogieing their way on to the hit Fox show, Jeanine shined bright. Mason joined 32 others who were selected to go on to compete in Las Vegas for a position in the top 20. Cat Deely, the show’s charismatic host, commented while standing on the Thomson Plaza for the Arts, “We were expecting Miami to bring the heat, and I think it did!”
Jeanine won $250,000, an appearance on the cover of Dance Spirit magazine, and the title of “America’s Favorite Dancer.” “Dancers have always been in the background,” says the effervescent 18-year-old from Pinecrest, Fla., “This show takes these talented people and pushes them to the forefront for America to see. The dance community is very grateful for what the executive producers of this show have done for dance.”
Joining her in the top ten were Janette Manrara and Brandon Bryant, both also from Miami- and some of her toughest competitors. While all the finalists received positive feedback to their finale performances, Jeanine and Brandon received the strongest praise from regular So You Think You Can Dance judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy and guest judge Adam Shankman. Veteran judge and world-renowned dancer, Mary Murphy told Jeanine, “From the first time I laid eyes on you, you have always been a stand-out. I saw you coming girl!”
It was the first finale in the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and featured the return of the season’s Top 20 dancers as well as performances by the Rage Boyz Crew and the winner of So You Think You Can Dance Australia. Next month, the process starts again with a sixth season of “Dance,” which will bridge the gap for Fox until next January, when “American Idol” returns.
The 2009 ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Tour will showcase the Top 10 favorite dancers in Miami at the American Airlines Arena on October 22nd.
Filed under: At the Center
Original plans for the Adrienne Arsht Center called for a street-level lounge to be located in the Carnival Arts Tower, the 1929 art deco landmark that originally housed a Sears department store. The lounge was to serve as a gathering place for patrons before and after shows and for Downtown Miami residents and visitors.
Fast forward three years and – voila! – the Arsht Center is about to fulfill that vision with an indoor/outdoor lounge that will rival any watering hole on South Beach. A major component of a sponsorship agreement with Bacardi USA, the Bombay Sapphire Lounge will open to the public in early 2010.
“We’ve been waiting for the right time to debut this lounge for a couple of years now, and this is the right time,” said M. John Richard, President and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center. “We have a strong corporate partner in place, it’s a viable time for the renovation of the Carnival Arts Tower, and Downtown Miami is poised to become a new Town Square.”
Plans for the Lounge were unveiled this week during an outdoor press conference on the Parker and Vann Thomson Plaza, in the exact same spot where lounge-goers will be sipping on premium cocktails in a matter of months.
Renderings reveal a sleek, sophisticated design that whisks patrons into an environment evoking the iconic Bombay Sapphire blue bottle. Downtown Miami’s newest hotspot will feature neon blue lighting schemes, modern furnishings, a collage of historic Miami photos, a signature bar, and outdoor seating. The Lounge will feature tapas-style fare provided by Performing Arts Catering through Barton G., the brainchild of international caterer and event planner Barton G. Weiss.
“The Bombay Sapphire Lounge will solidify the Arsht Center’s role as an entertainment hot spot in the heart of one of the nation’s most dynamic urban centers,” said J. Ricky Arriola, Chairman of the Performing Arts Center Trust board of directors. “With more and more people migrating to Downtown Miami, street-level restaurants and bars are thriving. Arsht Center patrons, area residents, and visitors will soon be able to enjoy cocktails al fresco, gourmet cuisine, and world-class theater – all under the same roof. What better way to spend an evening?”
Filed under: At the Center
The Adrienne Arsht Center announced that it has named Suzanna Valdez as Vice President of Advancement. Ms. Valdez comes to the Center after serving as Chief of Staff to City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz for the past two years. In her new role as Vice President of Advancement, Ms. Valdez will be a hands-on, deeply involved fundraiser and will direct the Adrienne Arsht Center’s efforts to broaden its base of financial support among individual and corporate donors. Her work will include building and strengthening the Center’s relationships with the business community, overseeing institutional fundraising activities, and securing major gifts.
“The Adrienne Arsht Center continues to make a positive impact in the Miami community. Now more than ever, individuals, corporations and foundations have an opportunity to make a real difference through their support for the Center, helping to ensure we sustain and maximize that impact. Suzanna’s background in the public, private, and non-profit sectors will provide her with a strong foundation for her work here,” said M. John Richard, president and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center.
Prior to her work in the Office of Mayor Diaz, Ms. Valdez gained extensive experience in the Miami arts community as Miami Program Director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. During her tenure there, she managed and directed an annual grants portfolio of $6 million for the Community Partners Program.
Mayor Diaz believes Ms. Valdez’s move to the Adrienne Arsht Center is a natural extension of her work under his administration. “Suzanna’s extensive experience and deep commitment to public service has been instrumental in advancing key policy initiatives for the city as well as advancing the urban and environmental goals of my administration,” said Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. He added that “While I’m delighted that she will continue working to develop our community’s arts and culture agenda at the Arsht Center, she will be greatly missed at City Hall.”
“The Adrienne Arsht Center is the cultural centerpiece of Miami and reflects our community’s commitment to the performing arts,” said Ms. Valdez. “As Vice President of Advancement, I look forward to continuing the elevation of the Center as one of the world’s premier performing arts venues and solidifying Miami’s emergence as an arts and culture destination.”
In addition to her work at Miami City Hall and at Knight Foundation, Ms. Valdez has held several prominent roles within the federal government. She served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor from 1997 to 2000 and worked in The White House as Special Assistant to the President from 1993 to 1997. She also served as a Special Assistant in the office of U.S. Senator Albert Gore, Jr.
Ms. Valdez attended Columbia University School of International Public Affairs, where she earned a master’s degree in public administration. She received her bachelor’s degree in management at the University of Texas at Pan American.
An active participant in the Miami community, Ms. Valdez is currently a member of the board of directors for the Miami Science Museum, as well as the City of Miami Arts and Cultural Commission. She sits on the board of directors for Community Partnership for the Homeless and has previously served as a board member for Breakthrough Miami, a peer-to-peer mentoring program for high school students.
Filed under: Performing Arts News
With the recent passing of legendary modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham, leaders in the Miami arts community remember the man, his legacy and his time here in 2007 for the groundbreaking event Merce in Miami.
The passing of modern dance great Merce Cunningham brings a flood of memories to my mind. As a dancer, I mourn the loss of a living link to the history of modern dance as Mr. Cunningham was part of a group of dancers and choreographers that helped shaped what we know as contemporary dance today. I recall the hours I spent in the dance studios of my undergraduate years being trained by teachers who had studied with him; how watching his choreography on stage can still prompt a physical reaction in me, taking me back to those warm up exercises and movement qualities that have been engrained in my muscles. As an arts administrator, I reflect on his work and contributions to the arts from an “insider’s point of view” having had the pleasure and honor of working with the Cunningham company during the two week Merce in Miami project that the Center produced in February of 2007. The commitment of each member of the Cunningham staff and cast, the professional approach to education and outreach, and the high quality of presentation and performance are clear indicators of how the company has thrived for 50 years. I am proud to say I played a small part in Merce in Miami and I am grateful for having been able to do the work while Mr. Cunningham was at the helm. I can’t help but feel fortunate to have been here – in the right place, at the right time, so to speak – to see the Center and various arts partners around Miami-Dade County put together and host such an important and extensive exploration of the works of a man who, at the time, was a living legend.
Museum of Contemporary Art Executive Director and Chief Curator, Bonnie Clearwater gives us her Point of View:
It was a great joy and privilege working with Merce Cunningham on MOCA’s 2007 exhibition exploring his collaborations with visual artists as part of the Merce in Miami celebration. He was a pioneer in the truest sense who recognized the remarkable possibilities that emerge when art, dance, and music intersect. Artists who collaborated with him were transformed by the experience and vice versa. Miami’s overwhelming embrace of Merce Cunningham and his work was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and served as an opportunity to introduce his legacy to new generations. He spent a memorable afternoon at MOCA, recalling his experiences and meeting with members that ranged from our high school Junior Docents to MOCA Trustees. His genius and his kindness left an impression that we will carry with us always. We will truly miss him.
Visual Artists and collaborator of Merce Cunningham, Daniel Arsham, gives us his Point of View:
I was introduced to Merce in his apartment on 18th street in October of 2006. Merce was 86 then, I was 25, and had just been commissioned by him to create the Decor for his new work eyeSpace. We talked about a lot of things that evening, none of them had to do with the new piece.
When Bonnie Clearwater told me that Merce was looking at my work in anticipation of working with me I had to jog my memory of who he was. I knew his name from my studies on Duchamp but my knowledge of dance didn’t extend much past knowing the names of him, Martha Graham, and a vague recollection of what happened at the Judson Church. I became a student again. I went to see Merce’s company four times that fall at the Joyce Theater, and watched as much video of his company as I could. Had I been asked by another choreographer to make a set a would have been in trouble as I had no experience whatsoever with the stage, in fact the first time I was ever on a “stage” was two days before the premiere of “eyeSpace” at the Arsht Center in Miami.
Merce worked with chance and thought of an evening of dance as three separate arts coming together for the convenience of the audience. The Dance, the Music and the Decor were all created independently of each other without the collaborators knowing what the other is doing. When these three are brought together the outcome can be remarkably congruous. About working this way he told me ” I want to open the possibilities to various results and no /one/ is particularly better”. What a miraculous vision to believe in me at that age and that point in my career. I wouldn’t have trusted me to do it! He had a remarkable ability to trust, and I believe had had no fear of failure.
I never really knew what Merce thought of my design, we never spoke directly about it. The piece did become part of his company’s repertoire which was his way of voicing approval. We did talk about a great many other things usually having to do with animals. After I recalled to him my experience fly fishing in North Carolina, we talked for an hour or so about how chance plays a role in the action of casting the line upstream and letting it float downstream.
My chance meeting with Merce has profoundly shaped both my life and my practice. He was a remarkable person and was unlike anyone I have met in my life. His courage and penchant for risk and experimentation is an inspiration to me. Meeting Merce has led to other collaborations and introduced me to an entire new world of people who have become very important in my life. If there is one thing that I have learned from him it is that anything has the “possibility” to work, It may not always be successful but the only way to do it, is to do it.
Dean of Dance for New World School of the Arts, Daniel Lewis, gives us his Point of View:
Although I never danced for Merce Cunningham he has been a part of my life since 1949. One of his dancers at this time, Judith Dunn, had a father who was my doctor. He recommended tap dancing to correct a club foot I was born with, and thus my career started to develop at age five. Merce had a second major effect on my life in the 60’s when I saw him perform Collage III, at Connecticut College during the American Dance Festival; he was powerful, majestic and arresting on stage. When the company was scheduled to perform in Miami in February 2007, I was so pleased to be part of the productions and there I found a third major effect of Merce on my life: The students from the college of the New World School of the Arts performed in the lobby before each performance in both theaters. They did two works, one by Dale Andree, faculty at New World School of the Arts, in the Ziff Ballet Opera House and one by Mr. Cunningham in the Knight Concert Hall performed before “Oceans.” The work the students performed was staged by Robert Swinston. Robert was my student at Juilliard, and in the company was Melissa Toogood, a graduate of the college dance program of New World School of the Arts. I’ve had many other encounters with Mr. Cunningham, the Cunningham School and Company over the years, from seeing the performance of “Oceans” in a Quarry in Minneapolis to doing a site visit of the Cunningham school for their accreditation. Having the Cunningham Company in Miami was so special for me. Although I never danced for Merce I now feel I was part of his work in a very small but special way. I am thankful to the Adrienne Arsht Center for giving Miami and me the opportunity to see and be part of a great artist at work.