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Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

There’s Nothing Called African Music: A Conversation with Olivier Tarpaga

Posted October 12th, 2017

“Dance and music are one in our tradition, and they come in one body.” This is what Burkina Faso-born dancer, choreographer, musician, and composer Olivier Tarpaga offers when asked about the relationship between the two mediums in his latest show Declassified Memory Fragment. Positioned as an “open letter” to life in a few African nations that have experienced cultural and political tumult over the last several decades, the piece opens tonight and runs from Oct 12-14 here at FringeArts. As the dancers move throughout the performance space, a group of virtuosic musicians play from the sidelines, informing the dancers’ movements and energies. “Live music affects everything and the dancers feel different and create different when the music is live,” Tarpaga asserted in a previous interview. Live music has always been a hallmark of Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project, likely because music has always been a hallmark of Tarpaga’s life.

Growing up in Burkina Faso, Tarpaga didn’t have to look far to find great music. His father was a saxophonist and the leader of Supra Volta, a popular band that played West African musics with modern instrumentation, even a rhumba influence. They were active throughout the ‘60s, soon after the country gained its independence from France, and often played for heads of state and dignitaries. They were based out of an empty bedroom inside the Tarpaga household, and young Olivier couldn’t help but be drawn to their infectious tunes.

“I’d just walk there and listen to them, and they’d all walk out—somebody was smoking a cigarette, everyone was talking—and then I’d go in with my brothers and we’d start banging on everything. I was always on the drums.” In the ensuing chaos things would get broken, and as a result he was often in trouble with his father. Even so, he simply couldn’t get enough. “Music was an addiction,” he said, and though he’d repeatedly beg his father to teach him to play, he’d always be told to study his math and science, that music would have to wait. Even when his father was teaching Tarpaga’s brothers to play saxophone—despite their total lack of interest—he was still pushed to focus on math and science. Nowadays, he’s the only musician in the family.

Tarpaga’s instrumentation of choice is percussion. He’s a master of the djembe as well as an unconventional virtuoso on the calabash, a large gourd utilized for many different instruments in West Africa traditions that also serves as an excellent drum. Back in 1995 when Tarpaga first came to the US he formed his still active musical outfit, the largely drum-based ensemble Dafra Drum. Named for the Dafra River, one of Burkina Faso’s most sacred rivers located in the city of Bobo Dioulasso, the group performs traditional dance and drumming from the Djeli/Griot tradition of West Africa. Tarpaga says he felt he had to attach “drum” to the name to make their musical identity clearer to Western audiences, but playing into uninformed notions of “African music” unfortunately opened the door for stereotyping. “I’d go to so many countries where there’d be a company from Brazil, a company from the US, a company from Japan, and then we were the company from Africa. I’d say ‘Why do you say Africa? Why do you think Africa is just Africa? You speak African? There’s nothing called African.’”

This frustration over the years led to the creation of Dafra Kura Band in 2011, “kura” meaning new. Tarpaga wanted to present the musics of contemporary Africa, the musics bumping in the clubs of his native Burkina Faso. Whereas Dafra Drum is about 70% drum-based, Dafra Kura Band is only about 20% drum-based, aimed more at showcasing the other beautiful acoustic instruments that have been a part of many West African cultures for centuries and continue to be integral to their musics. The band’s sound fuses styles like afrobeat, desert blues, and hip-hop, among others, in turn defying easy classification. This is, perhaps, in part because of Tarpaga’s wonderfully cavalier approach to music making.

While many calabash players use their hands or tools like special percussive rings, Tarpaga prefers chopsticks, something his kora player—a master Griot, or West African historian, storyteller, poet—claims to have never seen before. This is exemplary of the imaginative, unconventional creativity Tarpaga exhibits in his music. Though a highly skilled percussionist, he didn’t study music in an institutional setting and thus never learned about composing for other acoustic instruments. Instead of notating each players parts, he vocalizes the sounds rolling around in his head and his virtuosic bandmates translate his vision to their instruments. This wouldn’t work nearly as well if it wasn’t for the clear chemistry between the performers, as well as Tarpaga’s impressive ability to vocalize complex, speedy rhythms and tones. It’s a much more collaborative, joyful process than we are often led to believe the composer-musician relationship looks like, and that kind of spontaneous energy is infectious and something that lends itself to the creation of movement and theater.

For Declassified Memory Fragment music has been, from the beginning, and integral aspect of the piece. “All rehearsals have dancers and musicians, since day one,” Tarpaga says. Though it sometimes made for a chaotic process, forcing him to jump back and forth from playing composer to choreographer, the results are tremendous. More than other traditions of music and dance, in many West African nations the two are truly intertwined. A dancer won’t feel the immediacy, the tension of a centuries-old traditional war song if the kora that’s sounding it is playing off of a CD through boom box speakers. With music this spirited, this beautiful, this present, this engrossing and movement to match, they had to materialize together, have to coexist on stage as they do.

—Hugh Wilikofsky

Fragments of Unrest: An Interview with Olivier Tarpaga

Posted October 4th, 2017

Co-founder of the Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project, Olivier Tarpaga is both a choreographer and a musician who brings together disparate nations and identities to create powerful and meaningful performances. Working with his partner, Esther Baker-Tarpaga, the duo have generated a project-centered, transcontinental company that is based in both Philadelphia and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Their work has been noted for its intensity that “proved unforgettable” (Los Angeles Times) and for their projects that “metaphorically and abstractly decenter whiteness” (The Dance Journal). In their newest work, Declassified Memory Fragment, Olivier “declassifies,” or uncovers, experiences that many in Burkina Faso have lived through that are hidden from the world. Through the melding of dance and music, Olivier Tarpaga has created an exhibition of the memories of men in political military unrest from the many uprisings within Burkina Faso. We got the chance to talk with him about his process in creating the work and the contexts that informed it.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Declassified Memory Fragment came into being?

Olivier Tarpaga: It came to me during a research trip in Kenya in 2010. I grew up in Burkina Faso and have witnessed military coups in 1980, 1982, 1983, a very bloody one in 1987, and the revolution in 2014. This piece is addressing the issues of military coups. The irony is that in 2015 a coup in Burkina Faso happened the day of the avant-premier of this very piece at Denison University in Ohio. It felt like history revisited. Our country has been independent from France since 1960 and there are many fragments of my childhood memories during this time of political instability. I wanted to bring this issue into the open air and expose it with an artistic approach.

FringeArts: How did the choreography come about?

Olivier Tarpaga: I began the piece in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. With my cast we first began with speaking about the politics of ethnic conflict during the Kenya election and Ivory Coast war. We spoke about our memories and knowledge of the war zones. Several cast members grew up in conflict zones and their families were directly affected. I gave specific tasks, images, gestures and directions to research movement based on memories and experiences of different conflicts in the region. I then selected, transformed and composed phrases based on themes and emotions. We worked with live musicians creating the work and making solos, duets, and group work.

FringeArts: What made it important for you that it was an all-male dance troupe?

Olivier Tarpaga: This is purposeful because all these conflicts and wars we are focusing on were all created and directed by men. Men fighting for power. I am pro-feminist and thus I am specifically making a critique of men creating violence to grab more power. This is our first project with only men. Our company is not all-male, in fact it is founded by Esther Baker-Tarpaga and I. We frequently have mixed gender casts.

FringeArts: Can you describe how you approached the on stage relationship between the musicians and dancers? 

Olivier Tarpaga: In the context of West African tradition, music and dance are one. One does not exist without the other. I grew up in traditional and contemporary contexts. I am equally and musician/composer as dancer/choreographer. Live music affects everything and the dancers feel different and create different when the music is live. Once the movements are solid, it informs and inspired specific musical solo written for specific moments and emotions. Live music is a signature of Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project.

During the October 2014 revolution, an unarmed million marchers walked with their hands up towards parliament in Ouagadougou to stop an unconstitutional vote for the regime to stay in power. They were faced by heavily armed soldiers. When the army opened fire, there was no distinction of religion, ethnicity, class, sex or age. It was a blend of determined citizens. This is what inspired me to have the musicians sometimes invade the stage, perform physically and theatrically this way with the dancers in DMF.

FringeArts: What were you discussing the most during rehearsals with your dancers and musicians? 

Olivier Tarpaga: A lot of events happened in the continent during the research and creation process of the work between 2010-2015. We spent a lot of time sharing information and memories of wars, military coups and also sweet experience about what makes Ouagadougou and other African cities special despite the political instabilities. I was equally choreographing and composing the music so the whole cast would be on stage during such moments.

FringeArts: What aspects were most important for you to fine tune once the show was otherwise created?

Olivier Tarpaga: We had multiple showings of the work in Burkina Faso and received constructive feedback with people from all walks of life. The motorbike props bringing a nostalgic image of the city of Ouagadougou and the imposing set symbolizing the sandy roads and winds of the Sahel region. The white and red flower petals falling from the sky and the acclaimed Paris based lighting designer adding the cherry on the cake with his fine touch and radical ideas.

 

Declassified Memory Fragment
Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project

Oct 12 at 8pm
Oct 13 at 8pm
Oct 14 at 8pm

$29 general
$20.30 members (Click here to join and save 30% on tickets to all shows!)
$15 students & 25-and-under

TICKETS + INFO

—Interview by Josh McIlvain, June 2017.

Alone Together at Close Music for Bodies

Posted September 20th, 2017

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about sonic resonance lately, due in no small part to some recent visits to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s installation Dream House. Various incarnations of this sound and light environment have been mounted by Young—a revered minimalist composer, some say the first—and Zazeela—a light and visual artist and musician— around the world since 1969. The MELA (Music Eternal Light Art) Foundation Dream House at 275 Church Street in New York City has remained in that space for the last 25 years, the couple’s longest installation to date. It is a room of infinitely repeating cycles of sound and light frequencies, one that transcends its overwhelming, lower Manhattan surroundings.

During my first visit, initially the sounds contained therein were not as pleasant as I expected, grating even. It took a few minutes to acclimate, but once my eyes adjusted to the dreamy, pink and purple hued lights and my body to the drone reverberating through it, the experience was unlike much else. Speakers are directed such that where you position yourself in the room determines what you hear. You can even opt to just sit down on the lush carpeted floors and loll your head to witness the difference, exhibiting just how spatially specific the installation is.

I couldn’t help but recall this experience when observing a rehearsal of Close Music for Bodies on a rainy afternoon some weeks back. The piece from sound artist Michael Kiley premieres September 20th and runs until the 24th, part of the 21st annual Fringe Festival, and much like Dream House it calls attention to the infinite amount of unique experiences that structured sound can offer in a live setting. That’s about where the similarities end. Whereas the experience of Dream House is a solitary one, Close Music for Bodies is a communal, deeply humane work that wrings beauty out of the limitations of perspective.

Central to Close Music is Kiley’s voice practice, Personal Resonance. “My primary goal with teaching is to have the student understand that the real beauty and benefit of voice has nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how your voice can make you feel physically—and therefore mentally,” he recently told the FringeArts Blog. “Once someone understands how to control that physical sensation, their voice becomes as accessible as breathing.” This democratization of singing is integral to the performance and bolstered by the democratization of the space itself.

Once the piece kicks into motion, the shuffling about of cast and audience rarely ceases. At various intervals throughout the duration the performers guide audience members into various formations and in turn have to constantly navigate around them. These are all very conscious, choreographed movements, shaped with the help of choreographer Sean Donovan, director Rebecca Wright, and the performers themselves. Explaining the team’s close attention to movement, Kiley told us in that same interview, “I’ve been thinking of the movement as sound design—like speaker placement, only my speakers happen to be performers.”

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John Szwed: Notes on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme

Posted September 19th, 2017

This is a guest post written by anthropologist, writer, and jazz scholar John Szwed. He has taught Anthropology, African American Studies, and Film Studies at Yale University as well as Music and Jazz Studies at Columbia University where he served as Director of the Center for Jazz Studies. He has published many books on jazz and American music, including studies of Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Jelly Roll Morton, Alan Lomax and Billie Holiday. On Sept 23, he will interview Salva Sanchis, co-choreographer of A Love Supreme, at the FringeArts Bookstore.


On December 9, 1964, the members of the John Coltrane Quartet crossed the river from New York to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. It was night, because producer Bob Thiele preferred to work after the ABC-Paramount executives had left for the day; he could then avoid having to explain what he was doing. The quartet arrived at 7 o’clock and left before midnight, completing the entire recording of A Love Supreme with few retakes or edits, something quite extraordinary for a piece that long and complex, and without rehearsal.

Manuscript of A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane, 1964. Photo by The National Museum of American History.

More remarkably, there was no written music prepared for the session, only a chart that Coltrane had made to remind him of the structure. The musicians followed his directions, most of which were not spoken, but came from what they heard him playing. They were collectively composing by improvising together, creating a 33-minute art work, risking everything as the tape continued to roll. Musicians have improvised collectively since the beginning of jazz, but never for such a sustained period with no given harmonic structure and no agreed-upon melodies or rhythm. Bob Thiele was there, but unlike other producers he sat back and listened. His trust in Coltrane was such that he gave John control over what he recorded and when, an arrangement that no one in the music business short of a Frank Sinatra might have had. Thiele did not always understand John’s music, because it changed so rapidly and radically. Still, his belief was so strong that he defended anything Coltrane recorded to the company, both financially and musically. But A Love Supreme would not need defending.

While he was still living in Philadelphia and becoming a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, John Coltrane was controversial. To some his playing was meandering, boring, and harsh, even described as anti-jazz. Once, when French CBS received the master tapes for a Miles Davis Quintet recording, they complained to Columbia Records in the US that there was electronic distortion during Coltrane’s solos. But to others, he was a revolutionary—an intense, yet disciplined master, whose music carried the message of struggle and resistance, and was theme music to the Civil Rights Movement. But Coltrane saw a spiritual dimension to what he was doing, a means to peace. When Impulse Records placed ads in Rolling Stone calling it “fire music,” grouping him with the protests of some other black free jazz musicians, he distanced himself from such claims.

In 1957 Coltrane experienced a spiritual awakening of such force that he ended his addictions, reset his life, and with this recording he sought to signal his conversion musically, to testify to his encounters with God. When A Love Supreme appeared in February of 1965 his harshest critics were silenced, and for the first time he received virtually universal praise (though a few were put off by the confessional spirituality of his poem included in the album’s notes; it was too much for high modernists and hipsters). The album cover was black and white, a stark departure from all other Impulse records that were trimmed in orange and black.

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Making Art in 2017: Talia Mason on Onion Dances

Posted September 14th, 2017

Talia Mason. Photo by Irina Varina.

Name: Talia Mason

Show in 2017 Festival: Onion Dances

FringeArts: Tell us a bit about your show.

Talia MasonOnion Dances is an autobiographical solo examining the role that memories play in shaping one’s past, present, and future. It is is equally interested in how we remember and how we forget our inherited stories. There is dancing, storytelling, singing, reminiscing, and lots of questioning. Onion Dances is a work of dance theater that digs into what it means to be Jewish, and what it means to be a Jewish American during a Trump presidency. The world of the piece is gauzy, dusty, wrinkly, weathered, stinky (loaded down with the smells of time), and honest.

The concept for the piece came out of my time at the Headlong Performance Institute. One assignment was to create a constellation—an array of unrelated things that connections could eventually be drawn between. I had a sliced onion and a photo of my grandfather in my constellation. The rawness of the onion and the peculiarity of my grandfather’s expression made me want to learn more about my roots and my family’s journey to the United States in the 1870s. The piece developed from there.

Photo by Talia Mason.

Throughout the process, I have asked myself lots of questions: What does it mean to be a Jewish American? Does being a Jewish American mean the same thing for different generations? Why do we remember certain details and forget others? Why did Jews migrate across the United States when the large Jewish hubs were Manhattan, Baltimore, and Philadelphia? What did my ancestors like to eat? What traditions did they have that they then passed down? How do I know if what I remember is right or wrong? What happens to the people and events that we forget? How can a personal story become universal to audiences? How can this piece be accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike? I find myself trying to tackle some of these questions by using my family’s direct experiences as evidence as well as imagining what things may have been like for my ancestors in the 1870s.

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Making Art in 2017: Annielille Gavino & Evalina Carbonell on Mujeres

Posted September 12th, 2017

Name: Annielille “Ani” Gavino & Evalina “Wally” Carbonell

2017 Festival ShowMujeres

Past Festival shows: Fore-ign/Fore-out

Roles: Choreographers, Performers

(Top to bottom) Evalina Carbonell & Annielille Gavino. Photo by Edgar Anido.

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show. 

Ani Gavino: The show is a split bill between Evalina Carbonell and myself. Both choreographers will present their woman centered dance works, hence the title, Mujeres. I will be presenting HERstory which is supported by the Small But Mighty Art Grant. HERstory is a story of ancestral memories and lost histories. This 40 minute work is an interdisciplinary performance, celebrating goddesses, priestesses, female chieftains, and matriarchal archetypes present in indigenous society. HERstory questions the authenticity of history, and challenges our formalized, biased education. HERstory celebrates ancient spirituality, its presence in ancient mythologies, and its absence after the rise of European colonialism.

As a Filipino artist, I investigate pre-colonial Philippines and the role of colonialism in the fall of my indigenous matriarchal culture. HERstory, began as a thought after the birth of my daughter in 2008. Over eight years, this simmered in my subconscious, waiting to boil. Until motherhood, I never thought deeply about my relevance as a woman. Questions arose as I analyzed western archetypes such as the damsel in distress, the virgin, the evil mother, the seductress and the hag. The thought of my daughter’s acceptance of these portrayals as part of cross-cultural convention triggered this resistance.

Evalina Carbonell: My new work, Milk, deals with give and take, as it relates to the female body and motherhood. Using rhythm, breath, effort, and flow, the cast of dancers pour themselves into dance, relating this movement to motherhood. This work was awarded the Ellen Forman Dance Award, which will allow me to further my exploration of the project with Drexel University’s dance ensemble.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 2

Posted September 12th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

We Shall Not Be Moved @ Wilma Theater
Opera Philadelphia

What’s at stake here is America and its future. Who’s invited to participate?

On the run after a series of tragic incidents, five North Philly teens find refuge in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia at the exact location that served as headquarters of the MOVE organization, where a 1985 standoff with police infamously ended with a neighborhood destroyed and eleven people dead, including five children. This self-defined family is inspired by the ghosts who inhabit this home and begin to see their squatting as a matter of destiny and resistance. The group, named the Family Stand, is headed by self-appointed leader Un/Sung, and crosses paths with Glenda, a Philadelphia police officer, whose encounters with the family leads to a standoff that could threaten to repeat history. A co-presentation with Opera Philadelphia. More info and tickets here.

 

Andean Mountains (Montañas Andinas)
Carl(os) Roa, José Avilés, Elyas Harris

Andean Mountains is a digital journey through the mountains. Above all, it is a piece about personal geography: the way we relate to our place of origin versus where we’ve relocated. Featuring a performance by a juicy Colombian bear, the piece is both a Google Street View tour as well as an exploration of culture loss. More info and tickets here.

 

Urgent Care: A Social Experience @ The Colored Girls Museum
The Colored Girls Museum

The Colored Girls Museum takes community matters into her own hands converting the three-story Victorian memoir museum into a Social Care Experience. Her new exhibits redefine the concept and practice of “urgent care” from triage to aftercare. Curators, artists, and ordinaries construct Colored Girlhood as an imaginative and powerful space. More info and tickets here.

 

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 1

Posted September 11th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

 

To My Unborn Child: A Love Letter from Fred Hampton @ Iron Age Theater
Philadelphia Ethical Society

Murdered by Chicago Police at 21 as he lay by his pregnant lover, visionary Black Panther Fred Hampton preached a humane, compassionate revolution against racist brutality, child hunger, poverty, and capitalism. Fred cries, “Power to the People,” in Rich Bradford’s world premiere play reviving a critical voice for justice. More info and tickets here.

 

Mujeres @ CHI Movements Art Center
Gavino + Carbonell

Mujeres is a compilation of dance works by female choreographers, Gavino and Carbonell. Gavino’s HERstoryexplores pre-colonial matrilineal bloodlines from the perspective of an indigenous Filipina. Carbonell’s Milk delves into motherhood, investigating sustenance passed from mother to child. More info and tickets here.

 

Cotton & Gold @ Circle of Hope
AMH Productions

Writer/director Alyse Hogan explores history to tell this story of struggle, healing and resilience. Through Afrofuturism, the town of Tulsa is re-imagined from the forgotten history of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street. Join Loron Sr. as he escapes to an economically advanced Tulsa, searching for answers to save his hometown of Rankin from the watchful eye of COINTELPRO. More info and tickets here.

 

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Making Art in 2017: Michael Kiley on Close Music for Bodies

Posted September 10th, 2017

Name: Michael Kiley

Show in 2017 Festival: Close Music for Bodies

Past Festival shows: Sound design and original music for Nichole Canuso Dance Company’s Wandering Alice (also performer, 2008), Takes (2010), and The Garden (2013), as well as Animina, A Race Street Pier Soundwalk (Digital Fringe, 2015)

Fun fact: My first job in Philadelphia was house managing Christ Church for the 1999 Fringe Festival.

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show. 

Michael KileyClose Music for Bodies is an immersive voice work. It evolved from collaborations on several choreographic processes (with luciana achugar, Faye Driscoll, Chelsea and Magda), where I was invited to collaborate as a composer/designer, and brought my skills as a voice teacher into the fold. I began to get excited about how the moving body affects vocal production, and vice versa. This led to breakthroughs with my voice practice, moving it into a more fully embodied experience, which I now call Personal Resonance. The deep connections I’ve made with people through teaching Personal Resonance made me wonder if I could create that level of intimacy and community in a performance setting. Vocal education will be a facet of this performance.

It is a social and cultural norm to judge people by the sound of their voice. We do it without realizing it. This judgement is magnified when it comes to the sound of someone’s singing voice. As a result, the act of singing has become an elitist form. Early on in life, people are told that they can either sing or they can’t, in relation to their natural ability to duplicate pitches in a pleasing tone. But singing is one of the most mentally and physically beneficial acts possible in the human form. That benefit has absolutely nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how it feels, physically in your body. I’m interested in discovering what happens when a community of voices is unbridled by the expectation of sounding perfect, and only seeks that which is physically pleasurable.

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Making Art in 2017: Keila Cordova on KITH

Posted September 10th, 2017

(Left to Right) Matt Austin, Loren McFalls, Kathy Kerner. Photo by Kathryn Raines.

Name: Keila Cordova

Company: 3 Pony Show / keila cordova dances

Show in 2017 Festival: KITH

Past Festival shows: Linear DefaultAs Pretty Does, Volcano, My Love, Agnes Falling, Gold, Janet 2.0, Girl “Y”

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show.

Keila Cordova: KITH comes out of my on-going interest in looking at how people connect to each other.  We created a survey as a portal where people in the community can share their stories and connect to the performance experience. Dance can be the vocabulary for telling our story, or for releasing our story into the universe.

FringeArts: How have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?

Keila Cordova: I’m learning that there are infinite amounts of magic in not knowing.  So I find playing to be a great space for discovery. When you go through the trouble of bringing the right people onto your team, it’s important to value their uniqueness and make sure they’re a part of the development process.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: FringeArts ~After Dark~

Posted September 7th, 2017

This ain’t your grandma’s Fringe. Join us for some of the raunchiest, rowdiest, wildest shows at this year’s Fringe Festival. Hire a babysitter and leave your kids at home because these shows are decidedly NOT family friendly. Viewer discretion advised. 

Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret @ FringeArts
Martha Graham Cracker

The hairy-chested, fake eyelash-laden alter-ego of thespian Dito Van Reigersberg performs a balls-to-the-wall drag cabaret. Backed by her stellar band and with her killer voice, Martha Graham Cracker takes you on a raucous, joyous, uninhibited ride around her world.
“The Drag Queen King of Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia Inquirer
More info and tickets here.

 

 

Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play @ Evil Genius Beer Company
Happy Hour Live, LLC

Two parts sketch comedy, One part drinking games: Mixed and served! Come party with us for a night you might remember with interactive drinking games between comedic romps about the drinking experience. Ticket includes your first beer from Evil Genius! More info and tickets here.

 

The Groom’s a Fag; The Bride’s a Cunt; The Best Man’s a Whore; and the Maiden of Honor (Just) Hung Herself in the Closet @ The Beard Cave at St. Mary’s Church
On The Rocks

Daniel is pretty gay, but he’s marrying Nora. Nora is a virgin that wants her wedding night to be a sexual awakening. Shit gets fucked up. A song, a dance, an image, a poem all wrapped in a sloppy burrito of a play about glamping, hookers, the Easter Bunny, cocaine, Emma Stone, hauntings, and the horrors of commitment. More info and tickets here.

 

KINK HAÜS @ The Latvian Society
Gunnar Montana

Gunnar Montana transports us once again, this time to a brutal underground nightclub where no fucks are given, and fierceness is always welcome. Fantasy, fetish, and carnal desire are all in fashion so leave your inhibitions at home because inside KINK HAÜS, anything goes. That is, if you can get past the doorman. More info and tickets here.

 

 

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Making Art in 2017: Dawn Falato and Karen Getz on The Gorgeousity

Posted September 7th, 2017

(Left to right) Dawn Falato and Karen Getz

Name: Dawn Falato and Karen Getz

Company: The Gorgeousity (produced by Chalk, Chair and Broomstick)

Show in 2017 Festival: Gorgeousity – The Army of Love and Art

Karen Getz Past Festival shows: Suburban Love Songs, Disco Descending (Dawn was also in these shows); as ensemble member in Lunchlady Doris, Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical

Dawn Falato Past Festival shows: St. Anthony’s Body (a solo show); as ensemble member in It’s So Learning, The Ballad of Joe Hill.

FringeArts: Tell us about your show.

Dawn Falato and Karen Getz: Our show is a “play romp” for grown-ups—a musical wrapped inside an informal party.

We wanted to make a creative respite—a place to drop responsible, adult “skins” at the door for a couple of hours. We were interested in making a safe, inviting experience to sing, dance, play, and color for everyone who came to our event. We also wanted to make an instant community, with no “us” and “them.” It was important to us that the experience traveled easily, didn’t hold us back with production costs and could be experienced in almost any location.

Our main questions were: Could we could craft a truly immersive musical experience around our own strengths that would also naturally invite the audience in? How does the experience get crafted so that the participants’ input is genuinely significant to the outcome of the show?  Could we ask people to sing and dance and play act without any performative or creative pressure?

It took us about three years to craft both the musical that is the center of the experience and to craft the means by which audiences can step into that musical as themselves, without performative pressure or cynicism. And we added home cooked food. And crayons.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?
Dawn Falato and Karen Getz: Our mission had long been to create a two-plus-hour, joy-filled respite from the dividing ideologies and relentless pressures of being an “adult” in our society. It now seems more important than ever to get small groups of grown ups in a room together to remember how to create and play, release the tensions of the day and see each other as fellow human beings, just like ourselves. It’s far harder to demonize people you don’t know when you are looking them in the eye and pretending to be enchanted, human-geese together.
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Making Art in 2017: Sarah Carr on Mistress of the Maze

Posted September 5th, 2017

Sarah Carr. Photo by Chris Hallock.

Name: Sarah Carr

Company: WeftWorks

Show in 2017 Festival: Mistress of the Maze

Past Festival shows: None: this is my first!

FringeArtsTell us about your show.

Sarah CarrMistress Of the Maze explores the ancient Minoan myths and rituals that inspired the classical Greek tale of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur. I am an anthropologist as well as a dancer and fiber artist, and I have always been fascinated by the Bronze Age civilizations.

The Greek version of the tale of the Labyrinth is well known, but it reflects the values and concerns of the ancient Greeks: there’s a strong brave man to save the day (Theseus), a monster to slay (the Minotaur), and a princess (Ariadne) to be carried away when the task is complete. However, this well-known tale was crafted roughly two millennia after the Minoan palaces on Crete were abandoned. It is an appropriation of Minoan icons and symbols that retains almost nothing of the original context.

Minoan culture was starkly different than Ancient Greece. Images of warfare, so common in Ancient Greek art, are nearly absent in Minoan art. Minoan culture was mercantile, trading with and adopting influences from the lands surrounding the ancient Aegean. Minoan religion does not feature any clear depictions of male deities. Images of goddesses, and women interpreted to be priestesses, abound. Ariadne, rather than a princess awaiting her prince, was likely Labrynthinos Potnia. She was a goddess whose sacred symbols included the Labrys, the double-headed axe for which the Labyrinth is named, as well as the horns of the bull, the snake, and the honey bee. In this work, I am attempting to reclaim the identity of Ariadne, to create dances that feel like rituals dedicated to the principle of feminine power that was so very important in Minoan culture. It is not meant to be a historical reenactment, as the production uses very stylized masks and costumes. I wanted instead to capture the essence of this culture and pay respect to their myths and symbols.

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Rosas dances Coltrane: Interview with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker + Salva Sanchis

Posted September 3rd, 2017

“For dancers, improvising should be the norm rather than the exception.”

Choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis bring their full evening dance work A Love Supreme to the 2017 Fringe Festival. Four dancers surrender themselves to John Coltrane’s spiritual ode to divine love, his 1965 jazz masterpiece A Love Supreme. The album was revolutionary for its carefully balanced interplay between improvisation and structure. Likewise the choreographers create improvised and composed materials, interweaving and absorbing them into one another, for the performances.

In addition to jazz music, the practice of improvisation has always occupied a distinct space within the choreographic oeuvre of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Rosas. Salva Sanchis—who studied at PARTS (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) from 1995 to 1998—was himself a privileged witness to that very evolution: he performed as a dancer in the 2003 Rosas creation set to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, and in 2005 as dancer and co-choreographer in Desh, a piece based on Indian music and John Coltrane’s “India“. More than ten years after the presentation of the piece in a diptych with Raga for the Rainy Season, De Keersmaeker and Sanchis have undertaken a reworking of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, turning it into an evening performance now danced by a wholly new cast of dancers.

Interview by Michaël Bellon.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Taking on A Love Supreme fits with the idea of revisiting, and rewriting, Rosas’s repertoire for a new generation of dancers. We did the same thing with Rain (the piece from 2001 that we picked up again in 2016 with an entirely new cast). In 2005, Salva and I conjointly choreographed A Love Supreme and since then he has frequently used material from the piece in his classes as a teacher at PARTS. What is interesting about the piece, in addition to its intrinsic connection with this milestone of 20th-century music, is the way it combines improvised and written choreography.

Salva Sanchis: When we were working on Bitches Brew, we used to listen to Miles Davis a lot. We therefore inevitably developed a fascination with the role that Coltrane played as a musician in the Miles Davis Quintet. Davis and Coltrane admired each other very much, yet they were at the same time very different. Miles is about simplicity, Coltrane about expressive excess and energy. On the whole, A Love Supreme is more suitable for a dance performance than a simple collection of songs. The music possesses a structure with a beginning and an end, thus offering a kind of dramaturgical accessibility.

Michaël Bellon: Were you already a “jazzman” when you got involved with Rosas’s jazz-based projects?

Sanchis: I was a fervent jazz-adept before we started on the piece, definitely. I have always been interested in different kinds of music, but in the period before and during Bitches Brew, I happened to be sharing a flat with two jazz students. I learned a lot from them. Within their discipline, they were wrestling with the same things I was in my dance training. Take improvisation for instance. Dance shares a relationship with every musical genre since the two media show a strong mutual compatibility. Yet what is so interesting about jazz is how the practice of improvisation has always been at the very core of the genre. That has always fascinated me, mainly because my experience with improvisational practices in dance was only in an infant stage at the time. As a choreographer, I found it difficult to justify the use of improvisation, whereas for jazz musicians this has always been the norm.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Apocalyptic Visions

Posted September 2nd, 2017

In these turbulent times, artists in the Fringe Festival are using their mediums to present worst case scenarios for our unpredictable future. Check out the horrifying projections of reality coming to our city at this year’s Fringe!

 

AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE @ Berks Warehouse
Alexandra Tatarsky

A delirious anti-narrative of American emptiness, violence, and nonsense—part exorcism and part enema! With styrofoam wings, Xmas lights, and ketchup. “Phyllis Diller meets Artaud!” “Like Kellyanne Conway woke up from a coma after overdosing on sleeping pills and reading too much Gertrude Stein.” AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE exists somewhere between irrational healing ceremony, sad clown song, dance in the abyss, and desperate diatribe to take back ecstatic nonsense as an act of resistance. More info and tickets here.

 

Every Day APOCALYPSE! @ The Collective
Lone Brick Theatre Company

The death rays and nukes of outrageous fortune are aimed squarely at a struggling theater group when an irate son of God condemns the company to face a new apocalyptic scenario every day, for eternity. Can they learn to get along in order to save the world, not to mention the world’s worst production of Hamlet? More info and tickets here.

 

GATZ @ Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Harrison Stengle

Philadelphia, year 2025, the tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the kush was cheaper, the restlessness approached hysteria. From the makers of the off-off Broadway show Sword of the Unicorn comes GATZ a Great Gatsby modernist parody. More info and tickets here.

 

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Making Art in 2017: Leah Stein on Interior

Posted August 31st, 2017

Leah Stein.

Name: Leah Stein

Company: Leah Stein Dance Company

Show in 2017 Festival: Interior

Role: Choreographer, Performer

Past Festival shows: Portal (2016), Bellows Falls (2015), Splice (2014), Adjacent Spaces (2013), Hoist (2012), Rock Reed Tatami Stream (2011), Japan House Philadelphia (2010).

FringeArtsTell us about your show.

Leah Stein: I/we are tackling the balance between personal and global shifts, great loss and the possibility of regeneration, starting from an interior space. I read an article about a journalist’s visit to Spiral Jetty earthwork sculpture by Robert Smithson. She (Heidi Julavits) said this about her experience there: “I was thinking a lot about interior landscapes, those uninhabited places inside of us that cannot be contained (or explained) by any map. Interior landscapes are shaped by all kinds of forces: geographic or familial or cultural or genetic.”

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?

Diane Monroe.

Leah Stein: The Deep Listening practice I studied and explored with composer Pauline Oliveros has opened many new channels of perception in my creative and performance practice. This past spring, in collaboration with performers, we presented a new work in conjunction with an exhibit at the Woodmere Art Museum called A More Perfect Union? Power, Sex and Race in the Representation of Couples. This project, and the complexities of this time in the US, made me more aware of my own “cultural training” and ways of seeing and experiencing. It also instilled in me a desire to honor even more the great mix of diverse experiences and understandings within a diverse ensemble, even when they are unresolved, as well as the greater need than ever to listen deeply.

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Loosening the Reigns: Gunnar Montana talks KINK HAÜS

Posted August 31st, 2017

This Fringe Festival, Gunnar Montana transports us once again, this time to a brutal underground nightclub where no fucks are given, and fierceness is always welcome. His new piece, KINK HAÜS, is dynamic, dark and full of lust. It forces the viewer to acknowledge their own thoughts and feelings in regards to physicality, sexuality and the intimacy intertwined in both those aspects of ourselves. He takes these hot topics, that many people are comfortable avoiding, and brings them to the forefront of our minds. Recently, we got to ask Gunnar Montana about the inspiration and process behind KINK HAÜS.

FringeArts: Describe KINK HAÜS in three words!

Montana: Sexy, Crazy, Fun!

FringeArts: What do you believe is the most interesting aspect of KINK HAÜS?

Montana: The set is quite a spectacle. I spent two straight months constructing it by hand. And as I did, the show, the choreography, and the spatial transformation all took on a mind of their own. It’s a beautifully twisted world of somewhat organized chaos!

FringeArts: What inspired you to create this piece? Was there a particular moment you were struck with inspiration?

Montana: I was in Berlin, Germany a couple years ago and there was an underground nightclub I was quite excited to go to. It’s known for its outrageous club culture and apparently has a sex dungeon basement. Long story short, I was turned away at the door (I guess I wasn’t hip enough). This show was a fun project for myself to recreate everything I thought I might have experienced in that club had I gotten in.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Comedy and Improv, Part 2

Posted August 31st, 2017

This year’s Fringe Festival features features an abundance of comedy and improv. Check out just some of the riotous performances hitting our city next month. Find Part 1 here.

 

Elysian Fields @ The Adrienne Theater Second Stage
Philly Improv Theater (PHIT Comedy)

Like no improv you have seen before! A new dramatic one-act play channeling the works of the great American playwright Tennessee Williams is created before your eyes each night. Enter a world of tortured, desperate characters—ripe with unfulfilled dreams, desires, and the struggle to find escape from a harsh reality. The cast creates a show ripe with unfulfilled dreams, desires, and the struggle to find escape from a harsh reality. More info and tickets here.

 

Roll Play: An Improvised Adventure @ The Adrienne Theater
Roll Play

Roll Play is an improvised fantasy epic, combining the excitement of role-playing games with the spontaneity of live improv comedy. Guided by a mysterious Dungeon Master, the audience helps craft the world and its characters while dice rolls decide their fate. Join our heroes as they face mythical monsters, strange spells, ridiculous riddles, and more. Every show is a brand new adventure! More tickets and info here.

 

Dream Sequence @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
Cambridge Footlights/PHIT

Join “the most renowned sketch troupe of them all” (London Independent) transferring from the Edinburgh Fringe for free-flowing hilarity, excellent original writing & side-splitting character comedy. Don’t miss your chance to see this inventive new offering from the group that launched Monty Python and John Oliver! More info and tickets here.

 

 

The Flat Earth @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
The Flat Earth/PHIT

Favorites of comedy festival audiences across North America (multiple Best & Producer Picks), The Flat Earth return to where it all began—the Philly Fringe—and present a best-of extravaganza, showcasing material from a half decade of remarkable success: sometimes dark, often silly, occasionally experimental, and always impeccably costumed. Featuring Matthew Schmid, Jacquie Baker, Molly Silverman, Rich Lee, and Paul Triggiani. More info and tickets here.

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Making Art in 2017: Courtney Hunter on Splintered Glass

Posted August 28th, 2017

Name: Courtney Hunter

Show in 2017 FestivalSplintered Glass

Role: Choreographer, Performer

Past Festival shows: This is my first time self-producing and choreographing for the Fringe Festival. For my guest artists, The Blind Faith Dance Company, it will be their third time showcasing in the Fringe Festival.

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Photo by Carley Schwab.

Courtney Hunter: Our show explores the concept of reality and what humans perceive reality to be through three different stories. My piece “Wouldn’t you, if you could?” specifically explores the ethics of Artificial Intelligence and it gets at whether or not manufactured consciousness is any different than naturally occurring consciousness. Robots, to an extent, already exist around us and the world is already full of automation, but one day, humanity might have the capacity to develop artificial consciousness and intelligence. If we eventually have that capability, should we use it? Is it right and where is the line between scientific exploration and playing god? Once the artificial consciousness is created, how is it any different than human consciousness?

The concept for this piece was inspired by the HBO Series Westworld and the film Ex Machina. After researching further, I learned of the Turing Test. The test, completed in 1950 by computer scientist Alan Turing, observed the ability of machinery to exhibit intelligence indistinguishable from human form. After learning of the Turing Test, I started to wonder what it would mean if something passed the test. At that point, what makes them different from humanity?

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Family Friendly Fare, Part 2

Posted August 27th, 2017

Just because it’s at the Fringe doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home. Check out some of the Festival’s productions appropriate for all ages. Bring the whole family! Check out Part 1 here.

 

A Period of Animate Existence @ Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts 
Pig Iron Theatre Company

Children, elders, and machines contemplate the future in a time of dire predictions and rapid technological change in this work of symphonic theater. How do we contemplate the future in such a perilous time, an era called the “Sixth Extinction,” when up to 50 percent of all living species might die off? An inspired, large-scale melding of music, design, and theater, A Period of Animate Existence investigates the intense, unnamable emotions that arise in a time of extinction. More info and tickets here.

 

Photo by Michael Bach.

Lost in the Woods @ German Society of Pennsylvania
A Moment for Music

Lost in the Woods is the journey of two starving children who must find their way in a world that threatens to both empower and devour them. This family-friendly romp through Hansel and Gretel’s forest is a multimedia adventure featuring classical, jazz, and pop singing, lip-sync, and dance. More tickets and info here.

 

Photo by Michael Ermilio.

 

Life Lines @ Christ Church Neighborhood House 
Tangle Movement Arts

Seven women collide and are changed forever. In this dynamic circus-theater show, strangers meet their match, empty rooms listen in, and women find their power in flight. Tangle’s acrobats climb trapezes and aerial silks as they face sudden changes, spark chain reactions, and test the hidden threads that bind us.

 

Worktable @ BOK
Kate McIntosh

We provide the hammer, you do the rest. Worktable is a live installation that takes place in a series of rooms, which visitors engage with one at a time. Having signed up beforehand for a specific time slot, you enter and can stay as long as you like. Once inside there are instructions, equipment, and safety goggles so you can get to work—it’s up to you to decide how things come apart, and how they fall back together. More info and tickets here.

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