David Zambrano’s “Soul Project” is genius. Presented by the Miami Light Project, Zambrano’s show opened at The Light Box at the Goldman Warehouse. It was an improvised, funkadelic and soul-lifting performance that eliminated the distance between audience and dancer. Zambrano’s “Soul Project” was an intimate celebration of the power and energy of pure improvisation and audience interaction.
“Soul Project” was conceived as a gallery performance. Zambrano, who played master of ceremonies, walked on stage and made us get up and gather around him. You are now part of the show, he said. We were no longer outsiders relegated to the dark corners of The Light Box watching a performance detached from the dancers. Instead, Zambrano asked us to gather around, stand, sit and be close to each soloist as they began their improvisation.
The first soloist, Edivaldo Ernesto from Mozambique, danced while singing, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” His intonation of the lyrics, coupled with his powerful, floor-smashing footwork, mesmerized and haunted. His heavy accent added an additional layer because it made it difficult to recognize some of the words. We were forced to listen closely, so we leaned in. He also seemed driven by a beast unleashed by a wounded heart. The whites of his eyes were the only lights visible in the dimly lit, almost pitch-black space. Ernesto’s improvisation was just a glimpse into the visceral and visually stunning multi-sensational solos to come.
Seven international dancers in all, precisely dressed by Dutch costume designer Mat Voorter, performed improvised solos set to music by legends such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Chavela Vargas, Patti LaBelle and more. Even though the music was sensational, the playlist almost contradicted every movement made by the dancers. At a certain point, I just wanted to experience the solos in silence.
Young Cool Park, born in South Korea, provided one of the most electrified performances of the evening. His movements were spastic, contrived yet loose. He collapsed, flew, convulsed uncontrollably and even dove head first to the floor. The other soloists, who stood zombie-like, amplified the intensity and surreal nature of his performance. The narrative of his movements seemed to tell a story of an exorcism and/or an execution.
Zambrano explained after the show that each night is different. There’s a different play list and sometimes different dancers. But what remains constant is the fierce, almost wild intensity of his dancers – their power and energy unleashed through the freedom inherent in improvisation. Unexpected things happen in Zambrano’s work, but that is precisely what made “Soul Project” exhilarating.