Well, that was a beautiful way to start my 2016 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. A buzzing crowd filled the Strasenburgh Planetarium for a resurrection of "Anomaly," which premiered to acclaim at the 2013 Fringe, and has already sold out its 2016 run. I wasn't around for the program's 2013 edition, but what I saw Thursday night certainly lived up to the hype.
"Anomaly" is a collaborative show between dance company BIODANCE, contemporary classical ensemble Sound ExChange, and W. Michelle Harris, an RIT Associate Professor in Interactive Games and Media -- and adding in the planetarium setting, it's the kind of supergroup of talent that thrives at Fringe.
I won't be able to speak to how this year compares to the show's premiere -- a note at the bottom of the program says, "The 2016 production is based on the original program by W. Michelle Harris, Missy Pfohl Smith, Drew Worden, and Emily Wozniak." But background isn't necessary; the performance is gorgeous.
Set up on a small stage at one end of the planetarium, Sound ExChange, under the direction of Eastman School of Music student and cellist Dustin Seo, performed contemporary works by Caroline Shaw, Philip Glass, Arvo Part, John Cage, and Sound ExChange alum Kurt Fedde. Projections created by Harris played out across the dome in eye-catching patterns. And dancers, choreographed by Pfohl Smith, filled the space -- or in the case of one section, the dome's inner-workings itself -- with graceful movement.
Individually, each aspect of "Anomaly" was expertly done, but the real brilliance of the program is in how they work together for an immersive experience. There is a lot to take in, but it's all accomplished thoughtfully and to well-timed effect. And no matter where your focus might turn, you'll be satisfied.
Your eyes will undoubtedly be drawn to the colors and shapes (or the stars for the program's last section) moving across the sky -- and there is a supreme calming aspect to hearing Sound ExChange perform segments of Glass's "Mishima" while watching a mosaic shift colors and change above you. But if you look away, your attention will be instantly caught by dancers swaying, lifting, and shifting around the room like a group celebrating the heavens above.
Unfortunately, "Anomaly" has sold out its Saturday, September 17, performances. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another three years for more.
With more than 500 performances taking place Thursday, September 15, through Saturday, September 24, there's a lot to take in. We'll help you get started.
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