“There is an aversion to male beauty in this country. We feel that beauty should be defined as feminine,” said Ariel Rose, soloist and choreographer of the Miami City Ballet.
Rose is a founding member of “Men Who Dance,” a groundbreaking all-male performer dance program that returns to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ Amaturo Theater for two performances on Saturday, November 26 and Sunday, November 27.
“For us, masculinity is rough and abrasive,” he continues. “Our view [of masculinity] is very different from, for example, the ancient Greeks thought about it. For them it was a beautiful thing, as long as it was good and appropriate,” explains Rose.
Rafi Maldonado-Lopez, artistic director of “Men Who Dance” and director of the Inter-American Choreographic Institute, produced the first program in 2020 as a platform for exploring gender through dance.
Since then, “Men Who Dance” has grown from 15 dancers to 40 dancers and also includes two opera singers. The mission statement of the program has also been expanded.
“In fact, what happened to us when we went to different countries is that we started to realize that the stereotypes of masculinity are changing,” explains Maldonado-Lopez. “In Chile, we encountered an indigenous people who have never been invaded by the Europeans. Their idea of masculinity was very different. Every country we’ve been to was different.”
Rose adds a piece of American and European history.
“While it was acceptable for Europeans to be the romantic, more expressive man, [those aspects of masculinity] didn’t make it here. For us, it was the Marlboro male, the cold stereotypical male that became dominant, and things that have been bred into culture over time can take a long time to unravel.
In 2021, Maldonado-Lopez assumed the role of Principal Director of the Sanctuary of the Arts, an artist-led arts institution and arts campus in Coral Gables at two historic sites: the Church of Christ complex at 410 Andalusia Ave. and St Mary’s First Missionary Baptist at 136 Frow Ave.
Though he calls Miami-Dade home, Maldonado-Lopez has chosen to perform every iteration of “Men Who Dance” at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
“I really wanted it to be in Broward because we need a unified approach to art in South Florida,” explains Maldonado-Lopez. “If we don’t advocate for the cultural councils to think about a three-country approach to art, we won’t be able to operate any differently post-COVID than we were before COVID.”
For their part, Broward Center officials have cultivated close ties with Maldonado-Lopez and the Sanctuary of the Arts, with groundbreaking implications for the South Florida dance scene, he says.
“There’s not a single professional dance company in Broward,” says Maldonado-Lopez. “We are eager to help Broward grow their own professional businesses.”
For Maldonado-Lopez, the central motivation behind “Men Who Dance” is to give dancers opportunities.
For example, Rose will premiere a new work during “Men Who Dance” this year, messianica four-minute quartet for four male dancers inspired by the overture to Handel’s ‘Messiah’.
Rose invited Miami City Ballet Corps dancers Jordan Martinez, Ethan Rodrigues, Francisco Schilereff and Sean Miller to dance to his new work, as they joined MCB just before or during COVID. Recent MCB programs have featured female dance roles, and Rose says the four have had limited stage time.
“Most of my growth as an artist took place when ballets were made on me,” says Rose. “This will be a good opportunity for them.”
Another returning performer is Randolph Ward, dancer, choreographer and artistic director of RTW Dance. Ward is known locally for his groundbreaking choreographies that confront the idea of ”toxic masculinity.” His new work for “Men Who Dance” is Code switchwhich he performs with dancers Nathanael Leal and Savery Morgan.
“The first part is about being yourself and not dumbing down your blackness to feel safe,” Ward explains. “The second part reflects on the African-American writer James Baldwin’s 1968 answer to the question, ‘What does a Negro want?’ The last part goes back to the motherland,” adds Ward, who researched tribal communities for this part of the work. “We have red handkerchiefs in our mouths and throughout the play we are dressed in neon green to represent the alertness you need to code.”
Dancer, choreographer and filmmaker Enrique Villacreses is another founder of “Men Who Dance” returning this year. Villacreses first met Maldonado-Lopez at the New World School of the Arts when Maldonado-Lopez taught musical theater there.
Villacreses’ new work, Jupiter Jazzis an 11 minute piece in three parts set to music by the British cellist Oliver Coates.
“I did a workshop and experimentation at the Sanctuary of the Arts for the first time this summer,” says Villacreses. “I brought in six dancers, both straight and gay. All six [performers] dance in all three sections and be on stage for the entire performance.”
Villacreses elaborated his choreography by assigning a goal to each dancer.
“I mainly follow my intuition when I experiment with sequences on the dancers. These dancers were so different, with different backgrounds and different training. I had to design and adapt the dance around their specific bodies,” he says.
Maldonado-Lopez says each piece stands on its own.
‘Each of these three [performances] is so different from the others,” adds Maldonado-Lopez, “then think about how there will be 17 performers. Well, as one spectator at last year’s MWD told me, ‘If you don’t like this one, wait for the next one, because they’re all so different from the last.'”
– Sean Erwin, ArtburstMiami.com
“Men who dance.” 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-462-0222; browardcenter.org. Tickets cost $25 to $45.