By Diana Dunbar
In the Poetry Project, presented by Miami’s Momentum Dance Company, poems dance across the bodies of the dancers; and the choreographer writes her message with their movements. The project takes place inside the intimate black box theater at the Jackie Gleason Room of the Fillmore Miami Beach. Delma Iles, Momentum’s Artistic Director, offers a thought provoking, evening of dance and poetry.
Upon entering the black box, we find the dancers in various poses around the room; lines of poetry written upon the white canvas of their clothing. Arrows on the floor serve as directional signals to the flow of the performance; chairs are strategically placed and the poems are taped to the floor. The audience is given the opportunity to fully interact with the experience.
There arises, in this esoteric setting, a calmness from chaos. A meditative state seems to occur as the dancers interpret their poems; and we wander through the fusion of words and movement- mere mortals among the muses. Calliope whispers her verses to Terpsichore who dances her response. Words stretch with the elongated movements of the dancers. Lines seem to glide into various positions; and verses intertwine with the human body. Philip Glass, the minimalist composer, provides a score that complements the poetry of the dances.
Momentum’s dancers convey a sense of lyricism, spirituality and depth in their performance of the poems. Balances give way to graceful floor work. A dancer performers a solitary waltz; hands wordlessly caress the face of memory. Words propel dancers into leaps and runs…stillness- the dancer immobile – as if staring into an abyss. The dancers pause, then repeats a movement phase, as if the words can’t be contained.
Dance and poetry are not unusual companions. Isadora Duncan is but one dancer who found inspiration in poetry. She had a strong link to Walt Whitman, whom she considered her dance master, along with Jean Jacques Russeau and Friedrich Nietzsche. Song of Myself, from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, was one of her favorite poems; she performed it frequently in her shows.
Iles collaborated with four local poets to create this project. The poems ranged from free verse to Haiku and included the works of Michael Hettich ( Poetry Coordinator for the project), Catherine Prescott, Laurel Nakahishi, and Richard Jones. Hettich’s evocative poem, To Blow Away, Like Mist, lends itself beautifully to dance; especially the last line “ then swirl themselves up into the unencumbered sky.”
The performance ends with the dancers – Delma Iles, Barbie Freeman, Rebecca Pelham, Jacqueline Lopez, and Constance Thurmond – existing the space while the audience lingers, reluctant to leave, what had become a sacred place.