Fall Arts Preview | Dance: Stretching the boundaries

Soaring with Strange Fruit
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  September 10, 2014

FLOAT ON FirstWorks' Urban Carnevale will present Strange Fruit on September 20.

As surely as leaves turn in autumn and students turn pages, this season brings forth many turns and turnings in the Rhode Island dance community. With a half-dozen resident companies presenting full-length programs, college dance companies bringing in guest performers, and FirstWorks stretching the boundaries of what Rhode Islanders get to experience in the world of dance, the opportunities are numerous and wide-ranging.

FirstWorks (first-works.org) celebrates its 10th Anniversary with a free street festival, Urban Carnevale, on September 20. One of the featured groups, from Melbourne, Australia, is  Strange Fruit , which does movement and mime above the heads of their audiences, on poles that the performers skillfully sway and swivel. Because their wordless motions express abstract ideas and convey basic human emotions, their performances also have elements of theater and the circus. Having performed around the world, including at the Sochi Olympic Games last winter, they’ll be at the Providence Rink with a piece called Spheres (7:30 and 9:30 pm). The performers not only stand on bendable poles but inside and atop giant fabric spheres. Or, rather, that is the illusion. First they shimmy up the poles, pull the spheres up around them, and then they lean out the top opening or collapse inside or push their bodies so high on a perch on the pole that they appear to be on top of the spheres.

They describe this piece as taking a “whimsical look at physics, the miracle of birth, and humanity’s existential relationship to our planet.” The orbs are illuminated within and without in ever-changing colors and the accompanying music is also otherworldly.

Another international group at Urban Carnevale will be  Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino , a seven-piece band which plays the frantic and frenzied dance called pizzica tarantata (among many other genres from ancient Italian folk music). This is a healing trance dance to six-beat rhythms, originally intended to cure the bite of the tarantula, performed here by Silvio Perrone. Londoners and New Yorkers have raved about this group, and now they will play Providence (8 pm at the Providence Rink).

Other dance offerings in Rhode Island this fall:

Everett Dance Theatre (now officially Everett CompanyStageSchool, everettri.org) is in its second year of developing a new touring piece, titled Freedom Project, drawn from many of the “Brain Cafes” which Everett sponsors (watch for them this fall). The popular family-welcoming improv series, Friday Night Live, returned last week and continues through June. FNL combines improv with dance, music, performance pieces, and lots of laughs. On-the-spot musicals bring together Everett artists, up-and-coming performers, and guitarist/composer Bertrand Laurence in a hilarious creative mix.

On October 5,  Festival Ballet Providence (festivalballet.com) will present “Collaborations,” a benefit event for the company that combines the talents of dancer Vilia Putrius and photographer A. Cemal Ekin in a gallery show of 24 photos featuring a classical ballet character in a “natural” setting, such as the swan princess from Swan Lake in an actual lake. The evening will also offer a chance to watch a rehearsal in the Black Box Studio, and wine and food will be served.

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 See all articles by: JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ