For a dancer, flesh is power: content, identity, expression, being. In Catholicism – and romantic love – flesh is weak: temptation, vulnerability. Choreographer Rosie Herrera digs into those contradictions in Carne Viva, the first group piece her company has performed in Miami in years, showing at the Miami Light Project’s space in Wynwood Thursday through Saturday.
Carne Viva is a deliberate departure from the flamboyantly theatrical, campy/ironic, pop-filled pieces like Various Stages of Drowning and Pity Party that introduced Herrera to audiences in Miami and across the country starting in 2009. Five years ago, the Hialeah-raised dance artist found herself pulled in a deeper, more internal direction.
“I wanted to distill all the theater into the purest expression,” Herrera says. “The name means open wound, raw. I wanted the stage, the piece to be raw. In this piece I am interested in the flesh.”
The American Dance Festival, the renowned international summer dance event in North Carolina that has been fostering and presenting Herrera and her Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre since 2009, gave her time and studio space to explore what she calls a “crisis of faith” around 2014. But not religious faith – although she was raised Catholic, and the church’s pageantry still resonated with her.
“I started to follow the questions my body was asking,” Herrera says. “I was having a crisis of faith in everything. Faith in the most poetic or literal sense. Faith in a higher being, faith in humanity, faith in myself. I started to create these works to unpack that.”
Faith in romantic and sensual love, as well. Carne Viva, translated literally, could also mean “live flesh.” Herrera being a choreographer who finds a startling wealth of metaphor and emotional history in movement, she also thought about how Catholicism affected her psyche, feelings about her body, and generations of women.
“When you truly fall in love parts of your psyche and your self open up in ways that seemed impossible,” she says. “I’m not a practicing Catholic – I’m a dancer. That’s my religion. But in Christianity the role of God is like an absent father – all-knowing, all-powerful and not present. I’m interested in psychology and de-colonizing my body and de-constructing how that affected my relationships with men.”
Carne Viva is the first in a trio of pieces exploring this potent territory. Miami Light says that next season they’ll present Herrera’s company, which has been touring and doing residencies extensively outside Miami, robbing audiences here of seeing the work of one of the most original, powerful artists this city has ever produced. Indeed, the stripped down nature of Carne Viva is also practical – with no sets, and a small cast of three dancers plus Herrera, it’s easier and more cost-effective to present.
But her primary driver is far more raw.
“Falling in love or true love between two people rips you open the way nothing else does,” Herrera says.
Except for making art. Don’t miss Carne Viva this weekend.
Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre performs Carne Viva at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th Street, Miami, 33127. Tickets are $25 general, $50 VIP, and $15 for students with valid ID at miamilightproject.com.