The planets appear to have aligned and the gods seem to be smiling down on Peter London, if evidence of that can be drawn from a life demonstrably in harmonious balance.
The Julliard School graduate, former dancer for Martha Graham, Miami Dade College Professor of Dance, and founder/artistic director of the Peter London Global Dance Company, is enjoying a robust fifth anniversary season.
London is busy preparing his South Florida-based dancers for a partnership performance at the Lowe Art Museum on the University of Miami campus, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m., in conjunction with a current exhibit; the Titus Kaphar Vesper Project Art Installation.
“We are very fortunate to be invited by the museum to work with Titus Kaphar and the Vesper Project,” London said.
The art installation immerses the viewer in the tragic residue of a false reality as expressed by the architectural remnants of a family’s broken home and life. Raw wooden beams frame the walls of rooms covered in sepia stained old newsprint among damaged picture frames, antique household furniture, and violated art.
“The story is of this black family living a lie; trying to pass as white and in constant fear of being found out,” London said. “The choreography will represent that kind of energy — fear, doubt, insecurity, shame, guilt — and the costume designs made of paper speak to this living lie that can fall apart at any time.”
In the Vesper Project, artist Titus Kaphar interweaves narrative storytelling, film, photography and poetry into a fictionalized biographical art installation experience. What might be true and what is fabricated merge uncomfortably together in the catastrophic debris.
“When I started this project, I consulted a psychologist friend about how memory works and this idea of confabulation,” Kaphar said on the exhibit’s opening night. “The idea that our brains paint these pictures we pick up and believe as fact. When people look at this project they are obsessed with what are the facts, what’s real, and what’s not real. I want people to enter the space not knowing, in a suspension of disbelief, and let the experience open itself to you.”
Peter London’s dancers performed a prelude of what to expect at the upcoming Vesper Contemporary Art Fusion Dance for the Vesper Project’s opening night audience. “When I saw them dancing in that space something came off the walls…the space came alive and you felt like they own that space,” Kaphar said.
The art and dance collaboration event idea came together as Lowe art director and chief curator Jill Deupi and communications specialist Susanne Haase prepared for the Vesper Project’s arrival.
“Susanne is a dancer by training in another life and Titus had had another venue project and mentioned there was a theatrical performance and he wondered if we could do something similar,” Deupi said. “We were having a staff meeting and Susanne came up with the idea of reaching out to Peter. Even though they are coming at this from different sides of the art house there is a lot they have in common and it makes for a very rich experience.”
The Peter London Global Dance Company’s influences originate from his native Trinidad and Tobego. The Yoruba culture, Brazil’s Candomble, Cuba’s Santeria, and the traditional West African dances of the Congo were a part of his childhood experience and Caribbean studies. This is coupled with the profound impact of his years with the Martha Graham Dance Company and Jose Limon.
Graham was referred to as the “Picasso of Modern Dance” before she passed in 1990 at the age of 97, and her influence in modern dance is legion. She incorporated Greek mythology and the science of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung into her revolutionary works.
“I devised a technique based on what I learned in Trinidad and marry that with ballet and mix them together with Martha Graham and Jose Limon,” London said. “My students have all that information in terms of how to move the body in relation to metaphysical energies like thunder and lightning…I teach them about the orishas and how they represent spiritual power. They bring all that to the dance.”