A quinceañera for Sarasota Contemporary Dance

Jay Handelman
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Dancer Juliana Cristina helps Sarasota Contemporary Dance mark its 15th season.

Sarasota Contemporary Dance

For more information and tickets to the company’s 2020-21 season, visit sarasotacontemporarydance.org.

Leymis Bolaños Wilmott never had the kind of traditional quinceañera she was hoping for when she turned 15. But she’s planning to make up for that disappointment with a celebratory 15th anniversary season for Sarasota Contemporary Dance, the company she co-founded as Fuzion Dance Artists in 2006, while continuing to shake things up as she has always done.

The company will present four weekend performances of new works and updated versions of past favorites with in-person audiences at the Historic Asolo Theater and the Cook Theatre in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. There will also be a quinceañera street party outside the company’s studio home at Rosemary Square.

All of the programs also will be available on video to be viewed at home for those not ready to gather in public because of the coronavirus.

Bolaños Wilmott, who recently saw her parents at a social distance for the first time in six months, said she and her dancers need to present this season despite the coronavirus challenges.

Leymis Bolaños Wilmott is co-founder and artistic director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance.

The dancers have been “navigating the effects of what this is doing for our emotional and mental state. That affects the body. That’s why my company has been open,” she said. “We have protocols in place, but depression can be as bad as this COVID-19, and if you’re not emotionally stable and don’t have a physical outlet, you’re not being creative, not moving your body, expanding your lungs by breathing and exhaling and getting oxygen through your whole body, you’re taking away your essence.”

Bolaños Wilmott knows “some people are freaking out that we’re having a season. But we’re adapting to the times and at the same time, we are accommodating our patrons who still want to see new work.”

There’s also something about the times that almost forces her and the dancers to keep creating.

“We’re navigating it all and trying to serve our community and provide those voices and be true to what I’ve always done, which is bringing dance to the people and celebrating the joy of dance,” she said.

The company will follow all safety protocols – those attending will have to wear masks and will be spread out in the theaters. Only 50 people may attend a performance in the Historic Asolo. The capacity at the smaller Cook Theatre has not yet been determined.

She notes that some companies have dipped into their video archives to bring back past performances to stay connected with their patrons. 

“We don’t have that much on video yet,” Bolaños Wilmott said. “But there’s something about this time right now that says to stay creative. We’re being aware that our audience might be seeing us from a screen and we’re keeping that in mind as we create.”

Because of finances and other priorities, the company has not had the ability to video record most of its performances.

“I hate seeing dance on camera,” she said. “I’m not a fan to see even my own work on video. But I am excited about the possibility of having a multi-camera experience, documenting and broadcasting it as well as for archival purposes.”

Cameras will give home viewers a unique experience, seeing dance patterns and performers both from a distance and up close.

The season will open Oct. 1-4 with “Evolving/Revolving,” the company’s annual production that brings back past choreographers to further develop works they showcased in previous performances. The production will feature works by resident choreographer Erin Fletcher and Erin Cardinal with Brian Fidalgo, who were guest choreographers in 2018.

Rachel Lambright takes on the persona of film star Marilyn Monroe for the Sarasota Contemporary program “Evolving/Revolving” in a piece by Erin Fletcher.

Fletcher is developing a piece that explores the legend of Marilyn Monroe, her tragic life and the gossip that followed her. Cardinal and Fidalgo are presenting a dance that explores themes of migration.

Nov. 19-22, the company will bring back and update “SCD + Piazzolla Collaboration with Ann Pilot,” which was first presented in 2017.

“It was sold out three years ago in October and a lot of snowbirds didn’t get to see it. Now we can reach a larger audience,” she said. It features Pilot, the longtime harpist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who now lives in the area.

“This is a great program and we want to have really good video footage of it,” Bolaños Wilmott said. While maintaining the essence of the previous program, some of the details will be reshaped for new dancers.

The 15th annual Dance Makers, Jan. 21-24, features interdisciplinary collaborations with Matt Reeves and Colette Krogol of Orange Grove Dance in Washington, D.C.; a new work by company member Zoe Austin, a rising choreographer who was chosen by audiences last year to return with new work; “I live under your skin,” a piece by Douglas Gillespie, who has performed in Sarasota with Kate Weare; and a collaboration between Bolaños Wilmott and musician and composer Mark Dancigers, the new artistic director of New Music New College.

Dancer Zoe Austin prepares herself for some unusual moves in the 15th season of Sarasota Contemporary Dance.

The final program, April 29-May 2, is a “Tribute to Muriel G. Mayers,” in honor of one of the company’s founding board members, who has suggested favorites to be brought back.

The 15th anniversary will be marked outdoors at Rosemary Square on Dec. 18 with “Fiesta de Colores” featuring collaborations among musicians, artists and the audience. 

“I never had my quiñces because my grandfather passed away. So we’re going to have a huge quiñces party inspired by my Cuban culture,” she said. “We’re going back to my roots with music and dance and the essence of what has sustained SCD. We started out dancing outside at Whole Foods or anywhere else we could so this is like coming full circle for us.”