“As an artist and a human being I try to live in the here and now,” says Alexey, a choreographer and dancer. “This is one of the things keeping me alive and working.”
Their ability to respond in the moment has served them well as the Covid-19 pandemic has kept the pair at home in their historic Little Haiti house, together with Carla’s elderly parents and their pet cats and dogs. And they’ve transformed their 305 and Havana International Improv Festival, which Miami Light Project was slated to present at the Light Box in Wynwood in April, into an online event celebrating artist responses to the unprecedentedly strange situation the world is enduring.
“Daily life is improvisation,” says Carla, a filmmaker and dance artist. “We have a score, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in an hour, or a minute. Right now the world is in a big important dangerous improvisation. We want to create something where artists can share the moment they are living right now.”
“We are living in a unique time,” adds Alexey. “So we are adapting, because we have to survive as artists and human beings.”
The Improv Festival will now take place this weekend, with a Handcrafted Film Conference, a workshop with filmmaker Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez, at 7pm on Friday May 1st; and an Online Film and Media Screening Event, featuring original experimental films and dance videos from artists in Miami, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain, Italy and more, at 7pm on Saturday May 2nd.
Carla and Alexey have been part of the Miami Light Project family of artists since they were first commissioned for the Here & Now Festival over a decade ago, presenting multiple dance, film and hybrid projects since. This year they became one of the AIR (Artist in Residence) at the Light Box creators, receiving support and rehearsing at the Wynwood space.
Their fluid, immersive sensibility fascinates executive director Beth Boone.
“I find Alexey and Carla to be the quintessential artists in that there’s no separation between their daily lives and their artmaking,” Beth says. “If they’re cooking, caring for their dogs, or having dinner with their family, a film is being created in Carla’s head and choreography is being planned out in Alexey’s brain.”
Carla and Alexey have been on the move for much of their lives. Born in Cuba, Alexey, 49, trained at the National Ballet School and danced with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and then with Danza Abierta, the island’s leading modern dance company. At the end of 1991 he moved to Caracas, Venezuela after joining a dance festival there. Although it was the start of Cuba’s Special Period, a time of immense economic hardship and disruption, Alexey says he stayed primarily to launch his own company and work in Caracas’s then vibrant dance scene. He met Carla teaching at the city’s Universitario de Danza, where she was a student. They soon bonded artistically and personally.
“In the beginning we didn’t think about a relationship – it happened as we started working together,” says Carla, 38. “You share your life, you share amazing moments – it’s deeper. It’s not just that we fell in love. It’s also about the respect and admiration we have for each other.”
For years they did satisfying creative work in improvisation and dance, and in 2005 they launched Bistoury, their hybrid dance/ performance company. But soon growing violence and dwindling funding sent them to New York, where Alexey had received a Guggenheim Fellowship and, as a Cuban, could become a legal resident. They moved to Miami in 2007.
The shifts from country to country (they’ve also lived or worked in Europe and Latin America) honed their improvisational creative and survival instincts.
“Your feelings and knowledge, you always have it with you whether you live in Venezuela or New York,” says Alexey. “It’s very hard to live in another country as an immigrant. We are always trying to survive and adapt as an artist to these different systems and ways of living. It’s a constant metamorphosis.”
Separately and together, they’ve received numerous grants and awards, presenting performances, films, and improvisational events in Miami, New York, and Europe. Building community and events, wherever they are, to enable people to learn and create is central to them. Alexey reconnected with the Cuban dance community for the Improv Festival in 2017, finding a home for the event at Havana’s famed Fábrica de Arte Cubano to create bridges between the island and Miami.
“Artists are communicators,” says Alexey. “I don’t believe in frontiers. Borders are lines that go against the freedom of art.”
Carla’s focus has shifted from dance to experimental filmmaking, although they still perform together (and Alexey will edit her films.) Their creative bond continues to deepen and grow. They come up with ideas individually, then figure out how to collaborate or support each other, talking regularly and openly about their projects, roles and priorities.
“The main thing is we have a lot of respect for each other as lovers and as artists,” says Alexey.
“We are very different, and sometimes we are surprised that we think the same,” says Carla. “We talk about what is good, what is wrong, what we are feeling. We try to keep it balanced. Life is balance.”
Eventz Paul is currently the Technical Director and Productions Manager at Miami Light Project. He has been a part of this organization since 2011. He participated in Miami Light Project’s first class of the Technical Fellowship Program held at The Light Box. He joined this program hoping to improve his existing theater skills. He received training from experts in the industry that mentored and further his theater technical skills. Now, he has successfully used his professional knowledge and has had the opportunity to work with various arts organizations and venues throughout Miami including Miami Theater Center, National Young Arts Foundation, the Colony Theatre and many more. He has become an instructor and conducts audiovisual classes to incoming technical fellows.
Beth Boone has been the Artistic & Executive Director of Miami Light Project since 1998, developing critically acclaimed artistic programs that have asserted the organization as one of the leading cultural institutions in South Florida. These programs include: the establishment of Here & Now, South Florida’s most respected commission and presenting program for community-based artists; premiere presentations of internationally acclaimed; pioneering historic international cultural exchange with Cuba; and the creation of The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, a multi-use performance and visual art space in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. She previously served as Associate Director of Development for Florida Grand Opera, Deputy Director for the Department of Cultural Affairs at Miami Dade Community College, Wolfson Campus, co-founded an Off Broadway theater company (New York Rep), and served for six years as a Program Associate in the Arts & Culture Program of the AT&T Foundation. She received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the College of Charleston in South Carolina, and a MFA in Theater Arts from Brandeis University in Boston, MA.