JoinedApril 6, 2016
Fusebox Festival
This year’s Fusebox Festival was as rich and urgent as ever, continuing its smorgasbord of community, activism, and aesthetic in performances of all kinds, this time with a particular inquiry into race and borders (especially the one just 240 miles south of Austin). As a resident of a city rife with festivals, I’ve learned that locals’ experiences of such confabs can be orbital: when we are already at home, home pulls us away from the party, even as home is disrupted by the party.
Black Grace
Performances of the New Zealand company Black Grace, founded, directed, and choreographed by Neil Ieremia, a charismatic New Zealander of Samoan heritage, are as rich as multilingual conversations. Almost instantaneously upon being introduced to Ieremia’s egalitarian and boundless movement language, embodied by eleven sturdy, versatile dancers, many of whom are of Samoan or Maori descent, one-dimensional ideations of “culture” are rendered passé and ridiculous. The work draws from—and transcends—contemporary dance, ballet, dances of the Pacific islands, and Ieremia’s personal reflections. He and the dancers are fluent in all of it, all at once.
“Belle Redux,” choreographed by Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills and premiered by the company in 2015, is a dark reboot of the 18th-century French fairytale “La Belle et la Bête” (Beauty and the Beast). The two-act ballet was commissioned by the 3M corporation as part of a program to fund innovation in the arts (as part of his research, Mills met with 3M researchers and engineers), so it’s no surprise that it is unlike Mills’s other story ballets.
“The Bowie Project,” the brainchild of Austin-based choreographer Andrea Ariel, whose other credits include the choreography for the film Waiting for Guffman and a three-part dance-theatre series on the floating garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre, was an exercise in personae, layering, fragmenting, and improvisation. The performance, which incorporated three dancers, the David Bowie tribute band the Super Creeps, and three members of New York’s Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble, utilized Soundpainting, a “composing sign language” invented by musician Walter Thompson.