Rosie Herrera's path from Miami performer to American Dance Festival darling sounds more than a little like a fairy tale. When the Miami Light Project asked her to create a work for a program of emerging South Florida–based artists, Herrera assembled a crew of performers on the fly. "I bartered with all of my friends: 'If you're in my dance show, I'll choreograph your gay pride performance.' Or, 'If you do this, I'll choreograph your quinceañera,'" she says. It so happened that then-ADF director Charles Reinhart was in the audience. He was impressed with Herrera's gut-wrenching and skillful blend of dance, theater, film and cabaret and invited her company to perform at the festival that summer. "He gave me his brand of approval, and it opened all these doors," says Herrera. "It was as if my company formed against my will—but much to my delighted surprise." Since then, she's been back to ADF nearly every year, whether to create a work on the students or her own troupe. This month, Herrera will bring her new piece, Carne Viva, as part of ADF's season at The Joyce Theater in New York City.