Miami, Dec. 5, 2023 – Miami Dade College‘s (MDC) Koubek Center presents Two Islands, an extraordinary multidisciplinary performance featuring storytelling, music and dance. This event, which will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16, is the culmination of the first part of a two-year international cultural exchange residency that brings together Afro-Cuban artists from Miami and Aboriginal artists from Australia to explore how these vastly different cultural traditions speak to their ancestors through a musical and dance performance.
Two Islands features Afro-Cuban musician and educator Michael Gil, who will be working with the First Nation artists along with Afro-Cuban dancer and choreographer Marisol Blanco from Sikan Afro-Cuban Dance Project; musicians Manuel Clua, René Pedroso and Caridad Paisán; and dancer Suramy Suarez. The Aboriginal Australian counterparts include NT Dance Company Artistic Director and Choreographer Gary Lang from the Larrakia nation, Yolngu elder Banula Marika and Marranunggu Marrathiyel singer-songwriter David Spry.
“The idea is to provide three sides of both cultures,” says Miami-based Gil. “We’d like to offer an idea of the cosmology, the origin of the world according to each culture, and also a bit of the tradition of each culture. We are talking about the Afro-Cuban Yoruba dances and music that are part of Yoruban liturgy, and from the Aboriginal side, the rituals, dances and music in their ceremonies. Another part of all this is that both cultures, while they are ancestral, have evolved, have transformed, and will continue to transform and develop. Gary Lang already takes that approach, blending the traditional aboriginal dances with elements of contemporary dance.”
This blend of ancestral and more modern elements is also reflected in the instrumentation.
“You can’t do an Australian Aboriginal ceremony if you don’t have a didgeridoo (a horn-like instrument developed 1,500 years ago by the Aboriginal people in Northern Australia), and you can’t do a Yoruba ceremony without the batá drums,” says Gil. “These are instruments of cultures that have been enslaved, conquered, mistreated, and are instruments of cultural identity, of resistance.” But in Two Islands, they will be perhaps played side by side with a guitar, a flute, an African kalimba (thumb piano) or a berimbau, a bow-like Brazilian instrument of Angolan roots.
Working with his Australian Aboriginal counterparts has presented Gil with very different notions of speed, time and a focus on process – being present, rather than outcomes. Beyond experiencing the beauty in these traditions, he hopes audiences will walk away with ”the questions that have been the same and remain the same. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Is there something beyond? Those questions have been the same for all cultures, only they have been manifested and answered in different ways. So, despite how incredibly different two people may be, they have a profound similarity that perhaps could translate into a greater understanding.”
The second part of this collaboration will take place next year when Miami-based artists visit Australia. This project is possible with funding from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs International Partnership Grant and the National Endowment for the Arts.
WHAT: Two Islands world premiere
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 16, at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Koubek Center
2705 S.W. Third St., Miami, FL 33135
The Koubek Center
A South Florida landmark with a long and rich history as a cultural hub, The Koubek Center is dedicated to building community through the arts. Over the past several decades, the Center has offered a variety of activities, including workshops, art exhibitions, theater performances, literary readings, and concerts. It is a place for artists and local arts organizations to explore, experiment, collaborate, and share their work with the community. The Koubek Center includes a 200-seat theater, an expansive garden, classrooms, rehearsal, and multi-use spaces. Built in 1929 by Austrian trader John J. Koubek as a gift to his wife, it was later donated to the University of Miami and acquired by Miami Dade College in 2011.
Equal access/equal opportunity
Miami Dade College is an equal access/equal opportunity institution which does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, marital status, age, religion, national origin, disability, veteran’s status, ethnicity, pregnancy, sexual orientation or genetic information. To obtain more information about the College’s equal access and equal opportunity policies, procedures and practices, please contact the College’s Equity Officer: Cindy Lau Evans, Director, Office of Equal Opportunity Programs and ADA Coordinator, at (305) 237-2577 (Voice) or 711 (Relay Service). 11011 SW 104 St., Room 1102-01; Miami, FL 33176. EquityOff@mdc.edu