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Casey reviews Biodance and "Diaghilesque" 

All of Rochester could have been lit by the energy Biodance exuded at GEVA's Nextstage last night. The show reminded me of a collection of excellent short stories. Each unique piece vibrant and well-worked out -- good enough to stand alone, but even better as a group.

Missy Pfohl Smith, Artistic Director of Biodance, seems to attract all kinds of dancers and choreographers from Rochester and beyond to contribute to her projects. Along with Smith, this one also includes choreography from Heidi Latksy, Bill Evans, Ivy Baldwin, Jeanne Schickler Compisi, Eran Hanlon, and Courtney World.

Several of the pieces -- especially "Trapped at Tea," choreographed by Compisi and Baldwin, and "Borderline," choreographed by World -- operated at almost frantic levels. The first featured Compisi and Smith at some sort of mad tea party. Enclosed in a stage-wide ring of plastic forks, spoons and knives, the two began next to each other sipping angrily out of tea cups. More dance theater than pure dance, the two began throwing cups, leaping onto the furniture, and, finally raining plastic utensils down at each other. Makes you wonder what's supposed to be in that tea; I would have brought in a cup myself if I'd known. In any case, the choppy, truncated movement well-expressed a state of anxiety yet with plenty of humor thrown in. 

"Borderline" was even more tumultuous. Performed by Laura M. Regna, I'm guessing the piece is about the horrific pushing and pulling you must experience if you have borderline personality disorder. Regna moved as if possessed, flailing her limbs and jerking backwards and forwards in a somewhat-marionette fashion. Regna is a lovely dancer and was able to maintain clean lines and a strong flow of movement in spite of the manic energy trying to control her.

"Coaptation" was different from any of Hanlon's work I've seen so far. Faster and with more blatant outward energy, yet with a characteristic eerily beautiful quality, it featured dancers Compisi, Kathy Diehl, and Julie Schlafer Rossette as sweat-shirted, aggressively-moving women who seem distressed over something -- perhaps, even hunted. I found the movement to have something of a martial arts type feel, yet there are respites of poignancy as well, for instance in the hovering birdlike-stances the dancers sometimes freeze into.

The darkness of the initial pieces was diffused by the premiere of Smith's "A Moment of Silence," danced by Allie Alletto. Created in Corfu, Greece, this past July, Smith describes the piece as a meditation of hope and peace. Indeed, its repetitive wavelike motion before an aqua background summons a sense of serenity and then, as physically expressed by the dancer, a start toward some sort of realization.

Also to be noted, "Scherzo," by Evans, offered a lighthearted, large group work set to music by Johannes Brahms. The work combines rhythm, humor, and solid dancing and got the audience smiling along with the dancers.


A fair portion of the full house at Biodance seemed to stay at NextStage for "Diaghilesque", a reimagined presentation of Ballet Russe gems by New York City dance company Kinetic Architecture. This is the type of show the Fringe Festival is meant to nurture: brave, unique works that are a powerful contrast to your run-of-the-mill theater experience. The company uses classic works by the Ballet Russe (Russian Ballet) which became prominent at the beginning of the 20th century as a jumping off point to explore transgender issues, feminism, abuse, and primal sexuality. And, for the majority of the show, the dancers are completely nude.

The program guide warns mature audiences only; still, I was not prepared for this. Honestly, I initially spent a fair amount of time studying the dancers' bodies -- which are beautiful. After adjusting, I appreciated the honesty that comes with nudity. The dancers had already disclosed all to us, in a way, so everything they created on stage seemed imbued with a raw honesty. The vulnerability of heaving ribcages, trembling buttocks, and hard nipples gave a poignant sensuality to what they performed. Plus, it was awesome to clearly see the lines of their bodies as they moved since they are highly talented dancers, combining classical ballet with contemporary and a heavy dash of burlesque.

At the heart of the show is Choreographer Faux Pas Le Fae, a transgender performance artist who both performs and guides us through the different pieces through (often hilarious) narration. Le Fae was superb in the rendition of 'Afternoon of the Faun,' immortalized back when by Nijinsky. Clad in a feathery skirt and leather corset for most of the piece (Frankly, I can't remember if the clothes stayed on for this one or not), there was both campiness and a deep poignancy to the work.

My favorite piece, however, was "Firebird" in which the title character is portrayed by two different women. The women were topless but wore lacy red underwear and masks. Beginning with Johnny Cash and "Ring of Fire" and moving through The Doors' "Set the Night on Fire" and a slew of other songs filled with longing and lust, the women chased and wooed each other with both bravado and tenderness. Hot.

In This Guide...

    Adam reviews "Spoon River Rochester" and "Bushwacked"

    Combining aspects of a flash mob, performance art, and historical ghost walk, the wonderfully eerie "Spoon River Rochester" adapts the text of Edgar Lee Masters' "Spoon River Anthology" with a cast of over 150 actors (including Mayor Lovely Warren) delivering poems from the work, each one an epitaph of a single resident of the titular, fictional small town. Dressed all in white and shades of gray, faces painted pale, each holding a single candle, the performers are certainly striking to look at.

    David reviews "Chocolate Casi Amargo," "You Are Where," and "M.I.A."

    I only know a few words of Spanish, but I really enjoyed "Chocolate Casi Amargo," ("Chocolate, Almost Bitter"), a one-act written and directed by Candide Carrasco and presented Saturday afternoon on the TheaterRocs Stage at Xerox Auditorium. The play has no plot to speak of, it's just a late-night conversation between a long-married couple, Isabel (Elena Nápoles Goldfeder) and Francisco (Rubén Lorenzo Gómez).

    Frank reviews Teressa Wilcox Band, Violet Mary, the Heroic Enthusiasts, and The Campbell Brothers

    I've been going to see Teressa Wilcox since she was a teenage chick with a pick. And her voice's timbre has always taken a back seat to her gentle phrasing.

    Rebecca reviews "Moment of Impact"

    Created and performed by Bronwyn Sims of Strong Coffee Stage Company, "Moment of Impact" is a strange, multimedia, one-woman show that explores how trauma experienced and tragedy witnessed can change the trajectory of a life. Inspired by real events, the story is told through the creative use of a sparse set, theater, dance, and aerial acrobatics.

    Casey reviews "Garth Fagan Dance: Up Close & Personal"

    Experiencing Garth Fagan Dance perform is a little bit like coming home, especially when you live in Rochester where the cutting edge contemporary dance company (now in its 44th year) also resides and works. Familiar dancers, familiar pieces, familiar Fagan -- both wise and jocular in his comments and anecdotes.

    Adam reviews "140 Characters or Less" and 20 Penny Circus

    The second social media-centric comedy show of my Fringe Festival experience this year, "140 Characters or Less: A Twitter Comedy Show" delivered the #funny. Hosted by comedian Dario Josef with a rotating cast of local stand-ups, the show shares some DNA with Comedy Central's popular "@midnight" program -- mixing Twitter-based humor with traditional stand-up comedy.

    Rebecca reviews "Merged II"

    The final Fringe Festival performance of "Merged II" was presented on Wednesday night at Geva'sNextstage. This deeply moving and visually stunning series of performances was a fantastic celebration of the human body's capabilities to strive and express and explore and persevere.

    David reviews "The Cougar and the Cabana Boy"

    If you're not quite ready to say goodbye to summer, slip on your flip-flops and catch one of the remaining performances of "The Cougar and the Cabana Boy" at Xerox Auditorium. This original musical by Dresden Engle and J. Daniel Lauritzson features a very agreeable cast and a story as light and colorful as the beach balls that get thrown around in one of the big numbers.

    Photos from "TriviaCITY"

    CITY Newspaper's second annual trivia night at the Rochester Fringe Festival featured 17 teams competing at 5 rounds of questions about Rochester, the Fringe, and weird-knowledge trivia. Questions ranged from disco-song-origins, to fill-in-the-blank limericks on notable Rochesterians, a visual round of local logos, and a test of knowledge on the history of the Erie Canal.

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