Tuesday, February 9, 2016

FringeArts Dance Theater: Review

Swinging between childhood dreams and nightmares and adult sexuality. We become what we dream.

FringeArts Dance Theater: Review

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Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

Brian Sanders’ JUNK production, Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak, at the 23rd St Armory swung between childhood dreams and nightmares. Set to a haunting score of familiar lullabies created by his sister, Stephanie Sanders, this show departed from his usual dark, hard techno look and sound from past Fringe seasons. The glowy white, softly draping set consisted of huge banners hung from the rafters over three white-sheeted beds, a parachute covering a raised mound of sand beneath and an “oak tree” that reached to the ceiling of the armory.

His six underwear-clad dancers languidly pair off into the beds – same sex, interracial, hetero -- doing whatever you do in bed and, why not, even between the mattresses. Soon enough they're airborne, climbing the sheets, using them like aerial tissu silks to wrap around their legs, then dropping head down. When they climb back up to rip them off and plunge to the mattresses it’s to a collective gasp from the packed audience.

Sanders’ genius lies not in choreographing dance, per se, but in creating a mis-en-scene with props that his dancers play off. At moments when Laura Jenkins, the only woman in the troupe, lay supine, it reminded me of the mysteries in Duchamp’s Étant donnés. In another magical moment, she pulls the parachute up her torso while a hidden dancer lifts her onto his shoulders and ever so slowly spins her around in it until it reveals the sand.

But when three men prance out in elaborate steel heels, stomping through the sand and wimping off, it seems a section that’s not fully realized. Sanders and Pedro da Silva made the organic realistic “Oak” out of an aluminum frame with fabric stretched over it. It was fantastic to watch these gorgeous creatures climb and swing from it with childlike abandon -- probably something we all wish we could do.

Sept. 8-9, 8 p.m., Sept. 11, 8 & 11 p.m., Sept. 13-14, 8 & 11 p.m., Sept. 15, 8 p.m. 23rd St Armory, 22 South 23rd St. Tickets $35 FringeArts.com

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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