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Rochester Fringe Festival, Day 5: "BeeEye," "The Dust" reviews

A fascinating video-art piece and a multidisciplinary exploration of life and death


"The honeybee reminds us of the interconnectedness of all life" begins the provided statement by Cat Ashworth, creator of the "BeeEye" video installation at Gallery r, part of the inaugural Rochester Fringe Festival. Six panel screens at a comfortable eye-height form a hexagon. A viewer can stand at the center and learn a bit about honeybees, and hear the words of people who lovingly keep them, while being mesmerized by beautiful video of the fuzzy little wonders and their constant, high-frequency droning.

The reverence for the bees' work is evident, and one keeper speaks of ego-less dedication to community as the insects create everything they need as a model humans should follow. Though there is a cruelty in the hive, as in all nature, which the speaker does not mention. Keepers tend the hive panels in shorts and t-shirts (another scene shows a calm older man entirely covered in a swarm), comfortable and barely interfering, some teaching small children (who are fully geared up in coveralls) to be comfortable with the bees rather than mindlessly fearing them.

One scene in the video reveals the discovery of a dead hive. Though full of honey, the speaker supposes that they died of "being queenless" and hints at Colony Collapse Disorder, which another speaker renames "people collapse disorder," making it clear that we are not innocent in this mess. Survival favors the "most symbiotic," the keeper says -- the ones that don't destroy the environment and the other creatures they themselves rely upon.

Sunday evening, Core Project Chicago performed its work "The Dust" at RAPA, combining dance, experimental music, and poetry to explore the themes of death, fate, memory, and man. Four dancers worked through a series of segments together or solo, conveying our old friend, the human condition, through an elegant blend of bodies in motion and spoken word. The group's concern is with man's aching struggle with his awareness -- both a gift and a curse -- of his insurmountable transience.

This awareness has shaped everything about humanity, every act and mode of being is born of this knowledge. Perhaps there is no better method of conveying this beautiful tragedy than through dance, through a performance piece. It is to be experienced in the moment, and documentation of it falls dramatically short of the real deal.

"The Dust" explores our rational struggle with existence in all of its desperate beauty, often pairing aspects that seem at odds: our constructed existences and the illusion of free will, our flirtations with the abyss and the crucial alliances that keep us here, our frenzied hunt for peace. We are the stars and the void between them, and we crawl, leap, hang limp, gather, and cavort through our cycles. At the end of one fever-pitch symphony of sound and spinning, the dancers rest flat out, star-shaped, just for a moment before rising to begin again.

The soundtrack of dissonant, static-filled electronic tonal music, hinted at background noise from the universe, often overlaid with heartbeats, or with the presence of the artful human mind -- the philosophic soliloquy of a solo violin, or whispered poetic chants. Amid the latter it was possible to detect uncertainty, longing, or defiance, and often, an emotionless, practical look at our dust-in-the-wind nature. As a recorded voice recited in the show, "Chaos is the natural state of being, dying is nothing more than increased entropy. Nothing is ever created or destroyed."