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Dance in a Dead Heat

by Merilyn Jackson
August 26, 2007
Philadelphia, PA
More Live Arts/Philly Fringe Previews

Flamingo/Winnebago
The Lucidity Suitcase/Thaddeus Phillips
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street
8/30 - 9/3, 9:30 p.m., 9/6 - 8, 6 p.m.

States of Gravity & Light #2
Merián Soto/ Performance Practice
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American Street
Fri. 8/31 - 9/2, 7:00 p.m.

Tar
Charles Anderson
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street
9/5,6, & 8, 9 p.m.; 9/7 10:00 p.m.

Drought and Rain, Vol. 2
Ea Sola
Tomlinson Theater
1301 W. Norris St.
9/6 - 9, 8 p.m.

Explanatorium
Headlong Dance Theater
The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street
9/7-15, 8:00 & 10 p.m. shows vary

Delta
Satores & Arepo Group
St. Andrew's Chapel
4201 Spruce Street
9/13-15, 8:00 p.m.

RAMMED EARTH
Tere O'Connor Dance
The National Building, Side Door
119 Arch Street
9/12-15, 8:00 p.m

Festival of Lies
Faustin Linyekula/Les Studios Kabako
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street
9/13-14, 6:00 p.m., 9/15, 11:00 p.m. - 5:00 a.m.

In-Progress

Car
Kate Watson-Wallace
In progress
Free 45 mins
Whole Foods Parking lot Top Level
929 South
Sept 9, 9 am to 6pm

Wandering Alice
Nichole Canuso Dance Company
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 N. American Street
Mon. 9/10, 8:00 p.m.
Although dancers aren't contesting each other on a racecourse, I can't help sometimes seeing them as gorgeous thoroughbreds. Nonetheless, Philadelphia dancers are a competitive bunch and the annual Live Arts/Fringe Festival brings in rival companies that only bring out the best in them. I love to watch them strive, excel and succeed, even more than I love going to the track.

This year's festival curator, Pittsburgh consultant Janera Solomon, along with Nick Stuccio, the festival's co-founder and former Pennsylvania Ballet dancer, have gathered a Derby-class field of dancers with even odds against each other. Your best bet is to go to them all. But if you can't, here are the ones I think will all wear the roses.

As everyone knows, Headlong Dance Theater always finishes in the money. Explanatorium, a world premiere, explores and muses on the inexplicable. You are requested to come entirely dressed in blue and take tea with those incorrigibly highbrow pranksters, dancers David Brick, Nichole Canuso, Niki Cousineau, Amy Smith, Geoff Sobelle and Andrew Simonet. Be forewarned, you may be tempted to fly off in their mothership.

New York choreographer Tere O'Connor and his company were last here during Hurricane Floyd and their opening show was almost canceled. But some of us made it through the high winds and were disconcerted by his around the bend deviousness in Hi Everybody! The world premiere of his latest piece, Rammed Earth, takes place on the concrete outside the National Building's Arch Street loading dock. Expect to tote your own seating around the space. Architecture and its effect on us is the etude that carries the work. Could command the field against some major competition.

A real unknown is Satores & Arepo Group from Bulgaria. If muscular, vicious-looking Bulgarian women in black leather hi-tops intrigue you, as they do me, then Delta may make a good bet for you. Slovenian choreographer Gregor Kamnikar and Bulgarian director Peter Todorov create a spirit of universal love in a death-defying attempt to challenge oblivion and mortality.

Another dark horse is Vietnam-born Ea Sola who trained in Paris and returned to her home country to sift through the remnants and shreds of the Vietnam war to create this work. Originally premiered in 1995, her anti- war statement, Drought and Rain, Vol. 2, is restated now and performed by an ensemble from the National Opera Ballet of Hanoi. She's collaborated with composer Nguyen Xuan who employs traditional live percussion played by five musicians.

Politically and socially neck and neck with Ea Sola, but very different movers is the four member Les Studios Kabako from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Choreographer Faustin Linyekula leads them in a Festival of Lies, which runs 110 minutes for two shows and six hours from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on the last night of the festival. Local musicians and artists will be selected to join in this "cultural investigation" replete with drinks, food and live music. For Fringe diehards who can go the distance.

Merian Soto's States of Gravity & Light #2 opens the festival and if you like your dancers cool and thoughtful, this one's for you. Although the now Philadelphia-based Bessie winner Soto is often one hot mama with her salsa inflected dances, this one is introspective and organic.

If you want your dance hot and thoughtful check out Charles Anderson's Tar. It's his conceptualization of the rural southern folklore about the trickster Brer Rabbit that became The Wonderful Tar Baby Story. The author, Joel Chandler Harris, misconstrued the stories but Anderson will no doubt anthropologize their folkloric origins. King Britt, who along with Anderson recently received a PEW Fellowship, composed the electronic music.

Although Thaddeus Phillips is a darn good tapper, technically, his theater piece, Flamingo/Winnebago does not fall into my beat. But alone or with his little company plumped out this time by Muni Kulasinghe, Charlotte Ford and Jeremy Wilhelm, Phillips epitomizes Fringe. With collaborator and dramaturg, Tatiana Mallorin, his Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, packs up brilliant wackiness. Even if it doesn't always work, its worth going on a road trip with him. He's taken us to Cuba, Havre de Grace and earth's sharp edge. Now he's heading West in a Winnebago. Sasha Cohen could learn a thing or two from this dangerously funny guy.

Two free in-progress shows that could be highly entertaining are Kate Watson-Wallace's Car and Nichole Canuso's Wandering Alice. Watson-Wallace, another PEW Fellow this year, performs with co-conspirators in the front seat of a convertible every hour to an audience of three in the back seat on top of Whole Foods Market. Canuso's work always delights and I'm surprised she's taken so long to get to Alice's persona, surely at least one of her alter-egos.
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