Archive for April, 2011

Posted on Tue, Apr. 19, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

Heaven, Rennie Harris Puremovement’s new hip-hop work for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts at the Perelman Friday night, premiered hellishly late when the stagehand could not work the fog machine that was to have put us all on cloud nine.

Long white panels hung from fluorescent rods (James Clotfelter was lighting and scenic designer) and eventually were raised above the dancers’ heads to act as projection screens. After the show, Clotfelter lamented that his lighting on the fog would have made it look so cloudlike.

This kind of mishap can throw a show off, and it did just a tad, with a fitful start and such faint animation by Spencer Sheridan that I later wondered if there had also been a problem with the projections. Nonetheless, Harris’ company, four men and 10 women, built itself up to a forceful performance, heralded by a wobbly arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, one of the festival’s touchstones.

Posted on Fri, Apr. 15, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

Alexander Iziliaev

Tara Keating and Matthew Prescott

Weather-wise, spring is returning to Philadelphia in fits and starts. But inside the Wilma Theater Wednesday night the stage bloomed with potted flowers, campy song, loopy dance, and ballooning boobies. In Proliferation of the Imagination, a featured event of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, those balloons actually popped – because the production is, after all, based on Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1917 play The Mammaries of Tirésias. And this first-ever collaboration between the Wilma Theater and BalletX, its resident dance company, milks the show to a mirthful froth.

Walter Bilderback, the Wilma’s dramaturg and literary director, and choreographer Matthew Neenan, who codirects BalletX with Christine Cox, pulled together a crack team of actors, dancers, musicians, stage and costume designers to pull off this contemporary version of Apollinaire’s gender-bending, proto-feminist, antiwar play after which he coined the term surréalisme.

Mary McCool plays Therese/Tirésias, who refuses to bear children and grows a beard, while Luigi Sottile plays The Husband, in black-and-white-striped bustle skirt and heels. BalletX member Tara Keating, looking oh-so-sexy in a bowler hat and pinstriped leggings, shadows him. And dancer Matthew Prescott, in curls, ruffles, and bustier to match The Husband’s, shadows Therese as she becomes more and more masculine.

All of this seems to be taking place in Zanzibar.



Homegrown dance, times two

Posted on Wed, Mar. 30, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

Vince Johnson’s athletic “Drunken Monkey,” about a troupe of warrior monks, was performed by Christina Gerena (left), Johnson, and Edwin Lopez.
Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective (which is also a dance company) aims to support and promote the diversity of Philadelphia’s choreographers and their homegrown dance styles, and did precisely that on the weekend with a double dance feature at the Performance Garage: It opened with former David Dorfman Dance member Curt Haworth’s Either/Or and went on to Vince Johnson’s Drunken Monkey.

Haworth has been teaching at University of the Arts and making dance here for a decade; he recently founded Philly PARD (Performance Art Research and Development). For Either/Or, he collaborated with several well-known local dancers, among them Bethany Formica Bender, John Luna, and some of the Indigenous Pitch dancers, and framed the work with texts from Kierkegaard and Beckett. The dancers perform quite an acrobatic act between thoughts of these two mental giants, with handstands, cartwheels, and a series of Sisyphean rises and falls by Formica Bender.


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