By Mukul Khurana
Continuing the trend of “fringy” but world-class dance and dance theatre, Save My Soul (presented by Wingrove Studios) kicked off a weekend of elevated entertainment at the San Diego Fringe Festival. This aerial dance was set in New Orleans and made references to voodoo and consisted of other dark elements.
But there was nothing dark about the amazing talents on display, not to mention the technical expertise and perfection of the production. We have known that San Diego has a scene to rival Los Angeles and other cities. In addition to the excellent fare from other regions and countries the local talent was more than up to par at the Fringe Festival.
Lest you think that everything was just fun and games, Illegible (also a local production by bkSoul/Collective Purpose) took it a step further. Combining theatre, spoken word, dance, and hip-hop, this show had it all—and that included strong political messages and messages against racism in general.
We all know what’s going on in America when it comes to police brutality, racial injustice, and the rise of racist organizations and thought. Where is the spirited and passionate debate about these topics? Though many people have been heard expressing the belief that they only want “happy and non-controversial” shows, there is no denying that freedom of expression, especially artistic freedom, requires a place for these kinds of work. Fringe Festival provides that space without hesitation.
We have incredibly talented communities of color right here in San Diego—why not take advantage of the diversity so obviously present? But not everything had to make “sense.” Tears of the Knife, an excellent example of the Dada movement, was included in the Festival mix, and it was probably not everyone’s cup of tea. However, it is worth remembering that Dada came about as a reaction to the horrors of World War I.
The logical mind had resulted in warfare and extreme cruelty. Society had “thought” itself into repeated conflicts. Perhaps no- sense is the appropriate response. The piece itself showcased a beautiful jazz-inspired score and beautiful singing voices. It was presented by Bodhi Tree Concerts.
The Sizzling Circus Sirens presented five shows—each one different. The cast and numbers kept on changing. The initial show on Thursday was highly modified by Tuesday. They all had elements of circus acts, sexy burlesque showgirls, aerialists, jugglers, and stripping ballerinas. For those whose tastes go in a more classical direction—Reverberate, presented by Blythe Barton—was a refined sensation from San Diego. Who knew that classical music played beautifully by three musicians (Neave Trio) could be accompanied so well by modern dance? It was a pleasure to be part of this dance and music meditation. It goes to show that everything is represented and welcome at the Fringe Festival.
Hip Hop cabHooray from San Diego was a bundle of energy. The young performers filled a venue with an industrial feel into a space with the language of hip-hop dance. Along the way, they explained what hip-hop meant to them. The camerawork, which is usually used to document events, became part of the action. MTV style, the filming was projected in real time on the wall.
Exploration of boundaries has always been a staple of artistic circles. BODIESARE-NOTBORDERS, from Tijuana utilized a gritty scene design similar to the hip-hop shows (they are, after all, “urban” works). The sense of a border city was clearly felt and transmitted through dance movement by Péndulo Cero Danza Contemporánea.
Date With Death: Hollywood Confidential was an interesting foray into elevated TMZ topics. The acting was top-notch. Presented by The Poolhouse Project, it was the pursuit of celebrity icons and the mysteries left behind by their deaths (in this case, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, Selena, and Princess Diana). The description reads theatre, drama, comedy, and performance art as genres. The comedy part seemed elusive.
At the other end of the spectrum, Scenes from Mars One: Now With 68% Less Gravity, was a comedy that bordered on the farcical. Well thought out and very intelligent, it had great appeal for those who like their humor dark. Though it was billed as a story of the colonization and terraforming of Mars, it was actually a relationship tale about a husband and wife trying to escape one another. It was dark, hilarious, and thought-provoking at the same time. If you were in the mood for romantic love, do not go to War of the Roses in transit to Mars.
Big Kitchen: A Counter Culture Musical was a sweet story about a San Diego institution. Presented by InnerMission Productions, it essentially depicted the history of a restaurant that represents community to many locals.
Fringe Festival runs through Sunday August 2. Schedule of upcoming events here.