More than a year ago, Diego Salterini knew COVID was going to be very, very bad. The choreographer, dancer and co-founder of Dance NOW! Miami was collaborating with an Italian dance company last March when his homeland was the epicenter of the pandemic.
“We saw what was happening in Italy and we knew what was about to happen here,” he recalled. “We were not caught by surprise and knew we would have to reorganize.”
As the country shut down and most performers self-isolated at home, Salterini, his Dance NOW! co-founder Hannah Baumgarten and their 10 dancers quickly got familiar with Zoom. They choreographed works specifically to be rehearsed and performed on the videoconferencing app. The company’s annual gala, also held on Zoom, turned out to be the most successful in the company’s 20-year history.
“We did take seriously that we [also] had grant money coming from taxpayers, and we had an obligation towards our audiences to continue to offer some sort of relief from this nightmare,” so the company produced 10 performances — dubbed “COVIDeos” — and continued to seek safe ways to share their art, he added.
Maintaining safety protocols, as well as recognizing outdoor activities were largely non-transmissive, Dance NOW! Miami planned to record a full-length program in December at the North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach. After rigorous regular testing, one of the dancers came back positive for COVID just two weeks before the performance. The show was postponed to January.
“Testing, testing, testing and masks all the time, but now almost everyone is vaccinated,” he pointed out, and just in time for the company’s latest performance on May 15 at the Broward Center.
That live program in the Amaturo Theater will include two premieres:
"Dorian’s Reflection” is a contemporary treatment of Oscar Wilde's iconic novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The ballet, choreographed by Salterini and Baumgarten with an original score by Davidson Jaconello, explores the themes of fear, loneliness, loss and moral deterioration embodied in Dorian and his relationship to his image. The work updates the narrative to the modern era of selfies and social media, plastic surgery, Tinder and Grindr.
"Anusim, what is hidden is never lost,” also from Salterini and Baumgarten, was inspired by the 1497 decree in Portugal forcing all Jews to be baptized as "New Christians," but allowing them to practice their own religion in secret.
The contemporary program is rounded out by "La Malinche," the first piece famed choreographer José Limón created for his own company in 1947. It is based on the true story of an indigenous Nahua woman who played a key role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and who is now a prominent character in Mexican cultural history.
Dance NOW! Miami presents Program III on Saturday, May 15 at 8 p.m. at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $40 at BrowardCenter.org. Seating is limited and socially distanced. Masks are required inside the theater.