- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — A man and a woman appear to teeter on the edge of a building. Nearby, two women stand in place, gazing downward.

The man and woman run away from the ledge, but their desperation is clear: They have nowhere to go.

The movement is part of a tribute by the Miami Contemporary Dance Company to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The quartet performed its first major project, "Signs of Life (Project Breath)," last week at the Miami City Ballet.

"It was important for me that I capture abstractly the emotions and the feelings that were going on, especially within that first week," choreographer and dancer Ray Sullivan, 31, says. "The piece deals with both the terror and the anger, as much as it does the transformation to hope."

The performance was sculpted from three narratives: people around the world who watched the events unfold on television, those in New York City who observed the devastation firsthand and those who were either trapped in the buildings or on the planes.

Media accounts from September 11 and its aftermath were used to study the expressions and gestures photographers captured, Mr. Sullivan says.

The dancers, wearing black and white T-shirts emblazoned with stars and stripes, and speckled with gray, perform to Bela Bartok's driving yet melancholy Violin Concerto No. 2.

A series of gestures link the 20-minute performance. At different points, the dancers frantically swipe at their hands and arms, apparently trying to rid their bodies of the rubble and dust from the collapsed World Trade Center.

At other moments they pause and hold their hands over their mouths in shock. They also use their hands to show screams streaming off their lips. Some of the moves are punctuated by gasps, which show the struggle for air.

At one point, the dancers hold their hands folded above their heads to demonstrate the distress of those trapped on the hijacked flights and in the buildings. The dancers top the move by extending their arms to symbolize the twin towers.

The dancers Soledad Centurion Yedro, 26, of Chaco, Argentina; Lara Murphy, 30, of Miami; Tara York, 29, of Leeds, England; and Mr. Sullivan of Miami Beach are emotive and exact in their movements.

The piece swings between sharp, quick kicks and spins and gentle embraces, such as Mr. Sullivan lifting a dancer or coming from behind to hold another.

"In hope, there's a certain sense of peace that it gives you and there's a certain sense of the tangible side of humanity," Mr. Sullivan says.

The dancers say working on the piece has been emotionally draining. For one dancer, it touched close to home.

"I did have a friend who worked in the [World Trade Center] who was killed," Miss Murphy says. "It's the way that I can do a tribute to her and express something, and help other people work through their ideas and feelings."

Last Thursday's performance was dedicated to Sonia Morales Puopolo, a key supporter of the Miami City Ballet, who died on the American Airlines flight that crashed into the Pentagon.

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