Review of Ringling International Arts Festival: The Intergalactic Nemesis Book 1: Target Earth and Keigwin + Company

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Ringling International Arts Festival: A mixed, but full, bag

Review by Rodger Skidmore

Back in the day, when the first Ringling International Festival premiered, each and every performing group was a joy to behold. Over the years, as Baryshnikov slowly withdrew, it became somewhat of a pale shadow of its former self. Well, this year the sun is shining again. The performance groups not only look good on paper but seem, after the first two days of the 2014 festival, to be back in top form.

targetEarth1The Intergalactic Nemesis Book 1: Target Earth

One always hears (from those who love books and those who love radio) that reading and listening to the radio are wonderful because there are no visuals…..that letting one create one’s own images is the right thing to do, as it develops the imagination. While it may be one way to develop the imagination, but once they added pictures to radio (I believe they called it television) radio was mostly left behind. And while people still read books, the graphic novel has grown from the 10¢ comic book to an industry all its own.

The Intergalactic Nemesis actually is somewhere in between – sort of in its own time warp. The action takes place in 1933 and the writing is very much that of the pulp fiction of the late 30s and early 40s. The visuals are very graphic images projected on the full black backdrop of the Mertz theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. The audio is fully visible as the foley artist can be seen making all the sound effects – from thunder to trains to the thud of fists upon alien flesh. Theoretically there is no actor-type acting, just radio folk reading their lines invisibly over the airwaves. But, as they are on stage in front of you, the listening (and viewing) studio audience, you can see them mugging through all the action. While all this is going on, the live piano is driving that action and keeping one on seat’s edge. Is Earth destroyed, are all life forms in two galaxies subjugated by the Imperial Force of Zygon, are all in the audience having a great time reliving the past? You can only find out by attending the Friday 2 or 8 PM performances or, if you wait to the last moment, the performance at 2 PM on Saturday, the 18th. Really, as everyone will be talking about this show for the next few weeks, you should attend so that you can add your own comments to the mix.

Keigwin TriptychKeigwin + Company

A full hour of tension. Keigwin + Company is the child of Larry Keigwin and he should be a proud father. This really is interpretive dance in its truest form. And that, of course, takes many forms. 

One form is that of the story. The first work, Mattress Suite, has four segments, all of which tell short stories. You can follow them, with little effort, by watching the dancers develop the theme of each vignette. There is one prop throughout, a mattress, and all the performers are fully underwared. The first story, Straight Duet, is just that, two attractive lovers who make love, have spats, reconcile and separate. Another, Sunshine, is the the male, alone now, dancing to Ain’t No Sunshine, sung by Bill Withers. The third segment, Three Ways, is the same mattress but with three gay guys on it. I’ve always said that anyone should be able to do anything they want, but that I just don’t have to watch. Well, these guys were having so much fun – being coy, slightly aggressive, a little bitchy (just a little), and playful – that it really was a joy to watch. 

The second form is purely interpretive, dancing to songs so that the listener/watcher knows the true feelings and (generally) pain felt by those singing these bluesy torch songs. And great to hear Eartha Kitt do four of her great pieces – as well as Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone with theirs.

The third form is that of seemingly random movements becoming a cohesive whole. The piece they did, Triptych, was unbelievably complex. Never mind the complexity of the choreography (all works in the program were choreographed by Larry Keigwin, by himself, or in collaboration with Nicole Wolcott), the ensemble dance work by the six dance artists was the most difficult that I can remember seeing. The lighting was also very effective in this piece as well. 

Did you miss the first two performances? Too bad; however, you still have Friday, the 17th at 5 PM and Saturday,the 18th at 2 PM to see this wonderful troupe at the Historic Asolo Theater.

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