Guest Blogger - Multidisciplinary Miami-based freelancer Priscilla Marrero - "Miami Light Project" experience

Priscilla in Normal is Good by Yali Ramazoga-Sanchez (Photo by Brad Fernihough)
Priscilla Marrero and I go WAY back! I first met this beautiful person and talented artist back in 2001, when we were both still training. We really hit it off while attending American Ballet Theatre's summer intensive program in Orange County, CA. In this short 4-week period of time, we forged a friendship that has lasted over 10 years. Although we rarely see each other, we have maintained a great friendship and care for each other whether across coasts or sitting across each other eating dinner under palm trees.

Priscilla is currently an independent performer, choreographer, and teaching artist living in Miami, Florida. She collaborates with multidisciplinary artists through performance, including dance, film, visual art, clothing design, music, and physical theater. She is an active member in the creation of Inkub8, an alternative | whitebox | hybrid | studio and has performed with local Miami companies such as Josée Garant Dance, Momentum Dance Company, Florida Grand Opera, and Artistic Dance Theater. She was also featured performing a solo in season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance, making it all the way through Vegas week until the last round of cuts before the the Top 20 were chosen.

When I asked Priscilla to share a recent freelancing experience with my audience, she was very excited to tell me about her recent project with the Miami Light Project's Here and Now commissioning program, which took place back in the beginning of February. Read all about it below:

Priscilla in Think Like a Guy (Photo by Glexis Novoa)
The entire process of creating a piece for Miami Light Project was surreal. From the moment we submitted our application to the moment we were performing in front of an audience. MLP was the first grant that I had personally applied for. Knowing if my partner and I were selected for the commission with our own creation was exhilarating and scary!
Carlota Pradera, my partner in this commission, and I were actually in Tampa at the Florida Dance Festival when we were finishing up last minute details for the application. Finally, we pressed submit online and hoped for the best. Later, when Carlota called me to announce the good news, I was in a meeting and could not help but to go outside and cheer. I think the waiters were a little bit worried, but heck, I knew this was going to be an incredible process.
When the producers called us in for our first meeting, we had the opportunity to meet the three other local artists also being commissioned. There was a feeling in the room of "wow, we are in this together." We would each present a 20-minute work in the new home for Miami Light Project, the Goldman Warehouse. Beth Boone, director, jokingly made sure to tell us, “You guys will be the first class in the new home. You better be good!”  No, pressure. Phew.

We began the creative process in late August, entering the new space with many ideas and questions to be answered. Each session had a new beginning through physical experimentation, emotional embodiment, and characterization development. This was my second project with Carlota and our artistic collaborators, making it a little bit deeper with our connection as creators. We were in the studio three times a week in four hour sessions. (Sometimes a bit more, depending on the session or day).
As movers, we began each session with an individual warm-up, either through yoga, improvisation, or contact partnering. As time continued, we became interested in breath and how that was the initial seed for our movement or sound. I come from a ballet background. Initially, I would take a class before creating. But I purposely wanted to remove myself from that aesthetic, which was already in my body memory. 

Carlota has a strong connection with the floor in her movement vocabulary. She primarily builds her frame around the floor. Since college, I studied her method and enriched my vocabulary through release work and my relationship to the floor. We challenge each other both aesthetically and intellectually, an element that only heightens the exchange.  

Throughout this project, we had questions relating to the psychology of human behaviors in ideal beauty and popular dances. Being the investigators that we are, we headed out into the Miami streets. We went to a cosmetic surgery office, proposing that we were going to get work done. We went to pole dancing and hip hop classes, interviewing and taking classes. At one point, I found a newspaper article dating back to 2004 that was hidden in my high school yearbook. It related to a friend of mine getting surgery at 18 as a graduation present. We had late nights, including lots of conversations and exchanges with artists and non-artists. It sparked creative energy all around. Our curiosity was stimulated.
Early in the process, we brought in collaborators in clothing design, visual art, music, and film. We knew that we wanted to work closely with our collaborators from the beginning of the project to help deepen the languages between us and the work. Since some of our questions came from a previous work, we were all ready to go to the seed of this new work. I am inspired working with artists from diverse disciplines because the way each of us process is unique to each one. The individual intelligence of each mind is precious. When they create in their medium, their language is born and somehow all of our languages become one. It really fascinates me and, perhaps, is the reason why I continue to collaborate.
During the process, we had three work-in-progress showings for the producers and technical team. This was crucial because it solidified our ideas and concepts. In those showings, as performers and creators of the material being developed, the exchange with the first viewers gave us the necessary information to continue editing and strengthening our ideas. We also invited guest artists to provide feedback. They were just as involved in our process as our artistic collaborators. Sometimes, even more critical!
Priscilla & Carlota Pradera in Aquarius Juice
     (Photo by Glexis Novoa)
The moment had finally arrived when we were in dress rehearsal. The beauty of working in Miami Light Project's Goldman Warehouse is that we had already been working in the theater space before production week. We knew every corner, mark on the floor, and light switch. The space had familiar home energy. We had the opportunity to perform our commission, Aquarius Juice, six times in front of an audience (plus two showings at dress rehearsal and a private showing). The energy from each audience member was intimate and present. Each night was a new life. A new child being born.

One evening an audience member came up to me after a show. She was so touched by our performance that she became sentimental. She said that one of the reasons she had stopped dancing was because of her body image. Seeing us on stage, strong and present, the memories came back to her. She could not believe that they were still vivid in her body and thanked me for releasing her from them. I was very touched by her honesty and openness to experience the work. Those moments remind me why I continue to create work.

The entire process was an unforgettable learning experience, and I, along with my collaborators, are grateful to have experienced it. As a final note, I leave you with the words of writer Neil de la Flor on AquariusJuice. “Sometimes we have to face the ugly to see all the beauty in the mirror. Sometimes we have to smash the mirror and reconstruct a new image of ourselves. Sometimes we have to be jerked out of our comfort zone to find our true place in this human circus.” Pure. Honest. Present. 

Up next for Priscilla is the Ponderosa Choreographic Module in Stolzenhagen, Germany in August and September. Check out Priscilla's website to see what she will be up to in the future. 

Priscilla's advice for other freelance dancers:  “Every creative act involves a leap into the void…. If your work does not sufficiently embarrass you, then very likely no one will be touched by it” (Anne Bogart in A Director Prepares).  I am learning as I go, creating life as it comes. Continue your discipline, listen to your intuition, and share with others that share your truth. Every session is a new one, sometimes I question why I am still creating. A wise friend once told me that the only way to do it is to go into the studio every day, even if sometimes you just want to lie there.  Being active in your choice, somehow sparks creativity.

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