By playing with a sound looper, the dancers each add their own phrase to the opening number by banging on a hollow wooden box set on stage right. Once everyone’s added their bit, the group begins tap dancing across the stage. While some of the technical brilliance of their dancing may be lost on younger audiences, adults (especially this hoofer) can appreciate the crispness of their syncopation.
What the kids (and adults – yours truly included) will enjoy is the call-and-response nature of some of the routines. The dancers will tap or bang out a rhythm and ask sections to clap or stomp along. Soon, we’re all making music together. A little boy in the front row at the performance I saw was particularly into it, dancing in the aisle with reckless abandon.
While the concept is simple, and loosely inspired by the aforementioned “Stomp” as well as the Blue Man Group, the techniques, rhythms and materials they use are innovative and fascinating. One routine involves hitting spoons on their knees while also doing stomp dancing. Often, the dancers’ hands and feet are doing two completely separate rhythms (no small feat).
In another number, dancers hit different length plastic tubes against other tubes and the stage to create a melody for a dance. It’s a little like being in a hand bell choir while also tap dancing (a little harder to do that patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time). The number ends when they begin playing some familiar tunes — themes from “Mission Impossible,” “Star Wars,” and “Indiana Jones,” allowing the group to add a pinch of humor to it all.
There were a few routines involving background music and drums that were a tad loud even for me (and the 5-year-old in front of me was covering his ears), but it’s nearly impossible not to let your toes tap along.
Rhythm Delivered will not be performed again at Fringe.
Down the street a little ways, at MuCCC, a very different type of dance performance took place Sunday. It was more subdued, more subtle, and more expressive. Commotion Dance Theatre brought four original works to the Rochester Fringe this year, each as different as it was beautiful. Ruben T. Ornelas started the show, slowly scattering rose petals across the stage, before swirling his arms upward and dancing a sort of salsa — sans partner. It was full of joy and life. The second piece, “Of its Kind,” was more brooding and introspective, performed by guest dancer Alaina Olivieri, clad in nude undergarments and a fishnet dress. She crawled about the stage, rising into graceful arabesques, only to collapse again in a sort of primal struggle.
The third piece was the most experimental in my view. Laurie MacFarlane danced to a series of sound effects — from busy traffic to wind to birds chirping. MacFarlane loses herself in the piece, swirling about chaotically, then tenderly picking up a rose and handing it to someone in the front row. The final piece mixes Spanish poetry, music, and dance. Although I did not understand the poetry, Ornelas’ expressiveness clearly delivers the message.
Commotion Dance Theater will be performed again on Saturday, September 21 at 1:30 p.m. at MuCCC. Tickets are $10. Appropriate for ages 13 and up.
Unfortunately, I had missed Plasticiens Volants this year (Friday because of high winds and Saturday because of scheduling conflicts), but I was in luck Sunday! Unleashed Improv started their performance of “Other People’s Shows” by charmingly simulating the performance, only this time it was with balloon animals and birthday balloons on sticks. It may not have been as majestic, but it was certainly fun to watch.
For those unfamiliar, the local comedy troupe invites audience members to pick shows from the Fringe Guide and have the team of quick-witted actors recreate their version of it on the spot, based only on the description in the guide. With more than 500 shows, there’s no way they could have studied up or planned ahead for what we would witness throughout the night.
The actors skewer everything from “Disco Kids” to “Carlotta Cash and the Dollar Bill Show,” “Consensual Sax,” and everything in between. The “Unethical Dalai Llama” is turned from what I imagine is a serious show to a hilarious journey that finds one man trying to reject material things like Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich, lust, greed, and even the new season of “Stranger Things.”
The group plays off one another seamlessly, and you can really tell the members have been acting and working together for a while and are comfortable saying or doing anything for a laugh. Even when things aren’t going right — like not being able to do a Scottish accent to parody “God is a Scottish Drag Queen” — their self-awareness only makes it funnier.
The capstone for the evening was when they tried to mash-up “Avengers: Endgame” and “My Big Gay Italian Wedding.” Nothing could have prepared me for watching Thanos scold his adopted Italian son for being gay, while Iron Man strides in to save the wedding day. The best part is, no two shows are exactly the same, with the cast lovingly skewering different shows each night.
Other People’s Shows will be performed again on Wednesday, September 18 at 7:30 p.m. at School of the Arts: Ensemble Theatre. Tickets are $12. Appropriate for ages 13 and up.
When a very tipsy MargOH Channing stumbled her way down the steps of the Cabaret Hall, I wasn’t sure if I should be nervous or entertained. But once the hilariously over-coiffed drag queen made her way to the stage, grabbed a martini glass and knocked it back, it became clear that the fall-down drunk bit was part of the act. “MargOH Channing is Hung” apparently also was a reference to being hung-over.
- PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
MargOH! Channing is Hung will not be performed again at Fringe.