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Key West Reverie Reflects Island's Spirit In Dance, Music And Poetry

The island at the end of the road has been the subject of a lot of different works of art in its time — paintings, poems, songs and novels. Now different forms of art are coming together in a site-specific performance piece called Key West Reverie.

The work is the brainchild of director and choreographer Wendy Taucher, who created the piece for The Studios of Key West.

"Islands are interesting," said Taucher, who lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard. And in making Key West Reverie, she's gotten to know the southernmost city's unique ethos.

"It's definitely a kind of nonconformist place from the beginning," she said. "Very different than, say, Martha's Vineyard. It's way looser here."

The piece is set at the Key West Garden Club, which is also West Martello, a Civil-War era fortification.

That means solo dancer Karine Plantadit is not working on the smooth, well-sprung surface she normally would. Plantadit was a soloist with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for seven years and has been a Tony nominee on Broadway. She was in the original cast of "The Lion King."

"As a dancer you need to have a communication or connection with the floor that's very trustworthy," said Plantadit. But for Reverie, she has a brick pathway, with all its bumps and dips.
That surface means "letting go of the perfection that I had in my head of what I can achieve if I were in a studio," she said.

Adapting to those imperfections — the twists and turns of the garden inside the fort — is the point of the piece.

Taucher placed Plantadit's solo in front of a brick wall covered in green plants, and those plants helped shape the choreography.

"I never really thought about plants as moving," Taucher said. "But I come here a lot and look and they move constantly."

This is Plantadit's first time in Key West and she said she's been struck by the island's natural beauty.

"Orchids are everywhere here," she said. "Everybody's looking for an orchid everywhere in the world, and here you just look and they're there."

That abundance has shaped her performance.

"I was looking, I was like, 'Can I move like an orchid in this piece? ' " she said.

Key West Reverie also includes poetry and original music, including compositions by local musician Larry Smith and Cuban composer Ileana Perez Velázquez. The audience will be guided around the garden by performers while they experience different parts of Reverie.

The natural bounty of Key West is reflected in music performed overlooking the ocean and the dance along a garden wall. The island's inclination to party comes out at the end in a dance medley called the Full Tilt Conch Finale.

The performers have been rehearsing for weeks at the garden, with planes overhead, chickens and dogs making themselves known,and tourists wandering through. Mara Neimanis, an aerial artist who recently moved to Key West, is the dance captain. She was rehearsing with Taucher and discussing the piece when a visitor walked past, dragging rolling luggage that reverberated on the brick floor of the fort.

"You have to deal with stuff like and that and it's very real," Neimanis said. "As a performer you get to deal with all these really interesting variables that are real. They are a gift. They're gifts, and you use them."

Plantadit says those variables help make the performance more interesting. She said she likes the contrast to the usual experience of performing for an audience in a concert hall or studio.

"I would like to surprise them more than them paying an amount of ticket, whatever that is, and they just sit down lackadaisacally," she said.

Though Key West Reverie is ephemeral — even more than most performances since it is site-specific — Plantadit says she hopes it will have a lasting effect for those who see it.

"It's an added beautiful moment in one's life," she said. "And I think for me, art — that's what it is."

Key West Reverie takes place April 13-15 at the Key West Garden Club. Performances are at 5:30 and 7 p.m. April 13 and 14 and 7 p.m.  April 15. Tickets are available from The Studios of Key West.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.