New World School of the Arts “Rising Stars 2019”
A Stellar Display of Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts
Rising Stars, a professionally staged, energy packed, one-of-a-kind showcase, presented the extraordinary talent of high school and college students from New World School of the Arts (NWSA), Florida’s premier arts institution. Comprised of a cutting-edge visual arts exhibition and an evening of performing arts excerpts, Rising Stars has become the signature event of the school and a highly anticipated evening of the arts for the South Florida community.
With a color palette transformation, The Rising Stars Exhibition offered guests an unprecedented experience as the gallery was converted into an urban-chic black and white space. Angular white shelving symmetrically placed along the full stretch of the black walls allowed the audience to immediately appreciate the bold vibrant colors of the more than two dozen artworks, allowing them to fully explore the intricacies of each piece. From photography to video, and from painting to sculptural work, to installations, the exhibition offered a wide range of artistic expression, all focused on the central theme: Objects. Bag, a colossal metallic scarlet duffle, with seamlessly suspended handles, by Ashley Mendoza, seduced the viewer to uncover the treasures it might grip within its black confines, while Alian Martinez Rives’ Waking Dream, intentionally placed in a secluded room off the gallery, allowed the audience to imagine the world of the artist in the unconscious sleep state. The minuscule architectural details of Aryal Novak’s Landscape in the Dark 1&2 encouraged the viewer to inspect the oil-painted panel in search of elements hidden within, while at the opposite side of the gallery, a much larger architectural piece – Out There – by Carl Mathis, became one of the favorite photo backdrops of the evening. The illustration series, Personal Encounters, lured the viewer with its monochromatic illustrations of personal care objects, as artist Amanda Linares skillfully created the tetra pack drypoint work. Amanda, a 2020 BFA student, also designed this year’s Rising Stars promotional collateral, which loosely weaved a tapestry of nature icons with Salvador Dali-influenced illustrations to depict each of the four New World School of the Arts divisions: dance, music, theater and visual arts.
Just minutes away, at Miami’s historic Olympia Theater, guests were arriving to witness another anticipated evening of stellar performing arts offerings. New World School of the Arts friends and supporters, community leaders, and school administrators gathered on the second-floor mezzanine of the theater to toast to a successful evening of dance, music, theater and visual arts and to recognize all the work and preparation that led to this year’s Rising Stars showcase. A rhythmical music theater ensemble opening number rejoicing over landing the winning lottery ticket, 96,000, from the Tony-award winning musical In the Heights gave way to the evening’s display of stellar performances and hinted at the many artistic treasures in store for the audience of nearly 1,050 guests.
Among the most emotional moments of this year’s Rising Stars was the special on-stage recognition of Dr. Eduardo J. Padron, President of Miami Dade College, who after more than three decades has announced his departure from the College at the end of the summer. As a gesture of gratitude for Dr. Padron’s steadfast support of NWSA since its inception 32 years ago, Provost and CEO of New World School of the Arts Dr. Jeffrey Hodgson, along with NWSA High School Principal Jason Allen and the four arts deans – Mary Lisa Burns (Dance), Dr. Daniel Andai (Music), Patrice Bailey (Theater) and Maggy Cuesta (Visual Arts) – presented the distinguished educator with a beautiful bronze sculpture created by visual arts student Yusimy Lara, NWSA college class of 2019 Valedictorian.The sentiment continued as Dr. Hodgson also announced the departure of dean Cuesta at the end of this academic year, filling the hall with bittersweet nostalgia which soon led to a standing ovation and good wishes for both respected education leaders.
The carefully curated program continued with popular, new and classic performance excerpts interspersed with numbers from each of the three performing arts divisions that flourish at New World School of the Arts. Presented by the NWSA dance division and led by dean Mary Lisa Burns, the New World School of the Arts high school and college dance students engaged the audience with a vivid selection of choreography. An excerpt of Reunion, choreographed by NWSA’s Gerard Ebitz to traditional Celtic Folk music offered an exuberant contemporary dance for nine dancers in flamenco skirts, portraying a community celebration and welcome, while NWSA alumnus and Artistic Director, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company, Robert Battle’s work, Boxed, presented a powerful group of women, focused intently on the tightly knit group, set to a driving score by Robbie Kinter and Rattlemouth. Excerpts of two additional guest works completed the program and included Eduardo Vilaro’s (Artistic Director, Ballet Hispanico) new work for selected NWSA college students, Chance of Thunder, which invited viewers to a party-scene set to the irresistible music of Juan Garcia Esquivel, renowned Mexican composer/conductor/bandleader. Finally, the contemporary ballet Oblivion, a work for four couples set to a score by Astor Piazzola, called upon Lang’s Bessie Award-winning talent as a former member of Twyla Tharp’s company THARP!
Led by dean of music, Dr. Daniel Andai, the Music Division offered exhilarating performances of varied repertoire. The essence of Elaine Hagenberg’s Refuge, inspired by Sara Teasdale’s sorrowful text, was interpreted by the NWSA Concert Choir under the direction of Leslie A. Denning. A solo cellist within the work became the voice of heartache and despair, gradually moving the audience to an unavoidable place of inner peace and hope. Directed by Maestro Alfred Gershfeld, the NWSA Symphony Orchestra showcased Giuseppe Verdi’s powerful Overture to his opera, La Forza Del Destino – which librettist Francesco Maria Piave based on the Spanish drama, Don Alvaro o la fuerza del sino by Angel de Saavedra – to close the first Act. Welcoming the audience back for Act Two, distinguished professor of Jazz Studies, Jim Gasior, led the Jazz Ensemble with rousing sounds of Manteca, a collaborative composition by Dizzy Gillespie and Cuban percussionist, Luciano “Chano” Pozo Gonzalez, showcasing the talent of the band through rotating powerful solos. Finally, the Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Brent Mounger, masterfully interpreted the high-energy Symphonic Dance No. 3 by Clifton Williams, a musical ride inspired by the evocation and excitement of a Latin city’s celebration.
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Patrice Bailey, director of Rising Stars and dean of theater at NWSA guided the acting performances of college and high school students, addressing sensitive social topics through their commanding enactments. With powerful scenes from the plays Street Scene and Women of Troy, guests were succinctly presented with the dangers of bullying, misogyny and social profiling – topics all too relevant in today’s society. The historic stage, however, took a much more humorous turn as the yellow-skinned Marge (Simpson), in her iconic blue updo and elegantly dressed in a black sequence evening gown, seduced the audience with her raspy voice and story of unrequited love, hope and redemption. A lively excerpt from the popular Broadway musical Big Fish, lifted the mood with inspiring lyrics from the song Be A Hero, inviting the young protagonist to “change the world” and “be the hero of [his] own story.” After almost two hours of Broadway-style artistry, a thirty-member triple-threat ensemble raised the roof with the exuberant song from In the Heights, Carnaval del Barrio. Proudly waving their US and Latin-American flags, the high-energy from these young artists quickly spread through the multi-floor Olympia Theater, prompting the thrilled audience to break into a sea of applause.
Each year during Rising Stars a New World School of the Arts alum is carefully selected to receive the Rising Stars Alumni Award, based on the level of successful contribution to his or her art form. This year’s award was bestowed upon visual arts alumnus Camilo Rojas, a multidisciplinary graphic designer and creative director living and creating in Miami. After graduating from New World School of the Arts in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, Camilo began creating work for people, brands and interior spaces worldwide by effectively balancing concept, type, design, art and function. Typography is the starting point of his work and is usually characterized by a whimsical and meticulous re-appropriation of everyday materials and handcrafted techniques. His work has been featured in a wide range of art and design publications and has been exhibited worldwide in group exhibitions, biennales and parallel events including The Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial in the United Arab Emirates – 2016 and 2018, Raw pop-up, 100 typographic posters International Exhibition in China, Typography in Contemporary Art in Germany and international exhibitions in UAE, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and the United States. Camilo currently leads his multidisciplinary design studio CR-eate and Startup “Shoot My Travel”- a nationally recognized endeavor. The distinction was announced onstage by dean of visual arts Maggy Cuesta and NWSA Provost, Dr. Jeffrey Hodgson.
New World School of the Arts, created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts as an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida, proudly acknowledges Bank of America, its educational partners for its invaluable support of Rising Stars.
New World School of the Arts was created in 1984 when the Florida State Legislature established the institution to provide artistically talented high school and college students the means to achieve both an academic education and artistic training. In September 1986, NWSA opened its doors to students in grades ten through twelve and in 1987 admitted the first class of college BFA students. Located in Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, in the heart of downtown Miami, NWSA’s audition-based programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance, Music, Theater and Art & Design. New World School of the Arts offers the high school diploma the AA college degree as well as a four-year BFA or BM degrees and it boasts alumni on Broadway, Carbonell, Tony and Grammy Award winners, award-winning dancers in companies such as Martha Graham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico and MOMIX, and respected visual artists exhibiting nationally and internationally, including ArtBasel and the Whitney Biennial. Information about New World School of the Arts is available by calling 305-237-3135 or at NWSA/MDC.edu.
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Photos by Juan E. Cabrera