It’s early fall so there’s much to write about in Houston dance. First up, my review of Fringe Festival contribution “The Sky Was Wild With Sunshine,” choreographed by Ashley Horn Nott. Followed by a feature article for Arts+Culture Magazine’s October issue, available in print and online, entitled “The Fest Test: The Impact of Dance Festivals on Texas Dance.” Click the images to read the articles.
Growing up, fringe was the dangly stuff on my 1980’s era dance recital costumes. By the nineties, the embellishment all but vanished from the recital fashion landscape, however what I recall about the stuff is that it is particularly difficult to untangle. After you remove that little thread the costume companies weave between the strands, the fringe never hangs all in the same direction again.
Now, I identify fringe as that marginal, sometimes eccentric, expressive rendering out there on the edge of art. FrenetiCore’s Houston Fringe Festival did not consistently make it all the way to the edge with its opening weekend program, but like any good fringe performance it was a jumble of presentational art, providing a little something for everyone.
CORE Performance Company, which splits its time between Houston and Atlanta contributed CORE-poreal. The four short works, choreographed and skillfully danced by members of the company were the evening’s most sophisticated and arresting offering.
In the beginning there was a word and the word was love inventively depicts a couple (dancers Alejandro Abarca and Mary Jane Pennington) traversing the obstacle-ridden road of courtship and love. Though in a clever finale we see who wears the pants in the relationship (literally, if not figuratively), Corian Ellisor’s duet is, throughout, a subtle and honest display of vulnerability and dependency between two lovers.
Veteran CORE member Blake Dalton has produced an intriguing dialog in Find. The rich layers of Dalton’s spoken word and accompaniment wash over while the always captivating, Claire Molla, echoes and responds. Ellisor meanwhile cuts a statuesque figure in Abarca’s quenching Red MANgrove, and though Pennington apparently struggles with headings, Untitled III, her pas de trios with Abarca and Ellisor, is effortlessly elegant.
On opening night, FrenetiCore’s own dance and multi-media collaboration, Tread Lightly was waylaid by technical difficulties. The fragments that made it to the stage promised an imaginative use of luminary technology.
The collective Architects of Cinema delivered an improvisational conversation between Sandy Ewen’s scratching, creaking, prepared guitar and Y.E. Torres’s snaking undulations, while filmmaker Chris Nelson’s close-ups of hands and feet interacting with natural elements like twigs and water shifted to dark figures transporting a cheerless lantern in a dark hallway. The effect was tranquilizing for an opener.
In Soar, Virginia-based actress, Lindsey Carey is engaging as Polly, a storyteller who takes the audience through a series of theatrical episodes about women and their romantic entanglements with jerks. Her exploits in this one-woman-show ramble like one of those water park river rides; generally amusing with a few surprises. Carey manipulates her facial expressions with such clarity during an engaging pantomime that the mundane choice of song (an Alanis Morissette anthem) is pardonable, and a mathematical equation proving that girls are evil, followed by a proof that men are worse, is mischievously funny. However, things take an unhappy turn when Polly reveals the true tale she’s been smothering under a pillow of fluff. There is not a progressive crescendo to this climax and, as a result, the moralistic conclusion seems abrupt and incongruous though charged with affectingly sincere emotion.
The Rat Girls are an absurdly funny duo from Austin that poke fun at art and culture while wearing detachable tails, scarfing wieners, and clogging to Beyoncé. The satire is craftier than that sentence might imply. Also in the lineup, The Nonsense Music Band, a one-man orchestra (namely Dug Falk) administered a nerdy brand of anecdotal hip hop that served as an entertaining conclusion to a lengthy program.
Like the trimming on my old costumes, weekend one of FrenetiCore’s Houston Fringe Festival featured art that dangles in that free-form, all-over-the-place kind of way. Untangling afterward is as intriguing as the performance itself but, if it all hung with factory-issue tidiness, well it just wouldn’t be fringe, would it?
Reprinted from Dance Source Houston