Carla Forte and Alexey Taran – Life as Improv

By Jordan Levin

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Improvisation is not only at the heart of artist couple Carla Forte and Alexey Taran’s work, but how they live. They’ve hopscotched from Cuba to Venezuela to New York to Europe to Miami, always looking for new ways to create, live and stay true to what they love.

“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.”

And improvisation.

ABOUT MIAMI LIGHT PROJECT

Founded in 1989, Miami Light Project is a not-for-profit cultural organization which presents live performances by innovative dance, music and theater artists from around the world; supports the development of new work by South Florida-based artists; and offers educational programs for students of every age.

Since our inception, we have reached a diverse cross-section of communities throughout Miami-Dade County with an extensive outreach effort that includes partnerships with other arts organizations, universities and social service agencies. Miami Light Project is a cultural forum to explore some of the issues that define contemporary society.

ABOUT JORDAN LEVIN

A writer and journalist since the early 90’s, Jordan Levin was an influential voice on arts and pop culture at the Miami Herald for over two decades, as both freelancer and staff writer. During her time at the Herald, she wrote and produced numerous radio pieces for WLRN, two of which aired nationally on NPR. As a freelancer, she has written for the New York Times, the L.A. Times, American Theatre Magazine, Dance Magazine, and many other South Florida and national publications. Since leaving the Herald in 2017, she has worked in content marketing and community engagement for Miami cultural organizations including Miami New Drama and the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where she hosts a series of dance talks. She has taught feature writing as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Communications.

Before becoming a journalist, Jordan worked as a presenter and administrator for Miami’s Tigertail Productions and Miami Dade College Cultural Affairs. Previously, she was a dancer/performer in New York’s downtown scene, performing with artists such as Tim Miller and Yoshiko Chuma at venues such as the BAM Next Wave Festival, Performance Space New York and The Kitchen. She is working on a cultural memoir of the East Village in the early 80’s.