The true measure of talent is how well someone performs in a small space, up close and personal. No venue in Miami is more intimate than the black box theater at the Miami Theater Center. The room, just four black walls, not much larger the size of studio has a floor-level stage in the center set off by black tape. There are only about four sections of chairs in a U- shape around the stage. Not a place to hold a lot of people, Maybe 45?
The small dark theater is the current set of VOLCANIC, a performance art piece of dance, art and sound from Godoy Pradera, the team of choreographer and performer Carlota Pradera, artist Lazaro Godoy and manager Sangode Lowe. They have been working together since 2014’s Bare Bones project to promote risk-taking creations.
Part of the Center’s 2017 Sandbox Series “Mujeres,” the erupting production VOLCANIC boasts unique and creative costume and stage design, musical composition, choreography, theatrics, vocals, and lighting by a dynamic team of artists. Together all of these elements unearth an otherworldly, mythical and ethereal story.
Carlota Pradera (right), dancer and performer, and Cristina (Cuci) Garcia (left), singer from Afrobeta, star in the roughly 45 minute performance piece.
The two women each portray a mythical being. They represent two earthy extremes, ice and fire. One is water based, while one is earth bound. Carlota, who has bright red fantasy hair color, dressed in a light and airy mossy-green fairy skirt and earthy nude rope woven top. She plays the ice/water character.
Cristina wore a wine colored long wavy skirt and a top with a cool geometrical design exuding from her chest like futuristic jewelry. She had silver claws, also decorative. She is the earth/fire persona. They both had striking black eyeliner that looked like elegant war paint.
In the delightful costumes from Ana Maria Morales, they looked like a mythical creatures, fairies or nymphs in a struggle.
Carlota mentioned that she does not want the audience to perceive them as women first, simply as creatures of the earth. She said: “Although there are two females in the performance, I don’t want you to perceive us as only women. I want you to perceive two creatures.”
Like creatures, each entered the stage making noises, otherworldly and animalistic, earthy yet ethereal. Cristina, the earth/fire creature, came in first.
She scraped her silver claws against the wall, making screeches like nails on a chalkboard as she creeped onto the dark set from behind the audience in the beginning.
She remained outside of the center stage, entering the theater space but not the actual center of the box, inside the black tape, until the end. Her lack of stage presence emphasized her voice. She sang at various octaves hitting lower and higher notes, manipulating her voice to exude emotion. There was anguish, loss, devastation, anger, derisiveness, love, passion, tears and sweat.
In a mirror-like manner, Carlota crawled onto the stage, which was decorated with suspended ice crystals, from the top of blocks of ice in a corner. On the opposite side of the stage, there was a a section of earthly terrain. She jerked and distorted every muscle and limb in her body, posing intermittently in stances resembling a mad yogi on the floor between the two worlds.
She sometimes stopped to say something that sounded like a plea for mercy in an imaginary language, a language that seemed from the future.
In the background, the music from composer Frederico Jes Bonacossa played like an orchestral composition from another galaxy. One moment it sounded like a spaceship was landing, and the next minute it played like violins. The cool sound manipulation added to the apocalyptic and futuristic energy of the performance.
Throughout the piece, the two were at a tug of war with each other, some battle was taking place between them. The fire creature vengefully pulled strings that were maneuvering the ice creature like a puppet. Carlota explained: “Garcia has a very important role: she activates the opposite of me in the work, creating tension. She’s a physiologic monster that traps me from the very beginning.”
She seemed to really have it out for her. And the ice creature’s movements and sounds expressed grief, passion and distress while also exuding sexual, raw, primal energy at moments. In the end, the earth bound fire goddess overcomes the ice water being, but both seem devastated in the end.
Cristina (Cuci) Garcia’s Volcanic Vocals
I interpreted the performance as the ice melting as a result of global warming from environmental degradation (often resulting from the use of fire). We are in Miami after all, the #1 target in our country for vanishing Arctic ice caps. Yes, climate change and the resulting sea level rise is a pressing issue here with the worsening floods, especially on Miami Beach. What is art if not relevant to the issues of our time?
In order to captivate the audience, any performer in such an intimate, art-house space has to be convincing, for talent is convincing. These two artists are convincing with their compelling, entertaining, and captivating performances.
With delightful costumes from Ana Maria Morales, majestic stage design from Robert McKnight, an amazing, futuristic sounding composition from Frederico Jes Bonacossa, and excellent performances from Cristina Garcia and Carlota Pradera, this is dreamy, unique, and trippy show from outer space.
VOLCANIC will be showing on Friday June 9 and Saturday June 10 at the Black Box of the Miami Theater Center at 8 p.m. For tickets and information, please visit www.mtcmiami.org