Thursday, February 14, 2008

The 3rd Annual Phoenix Experimental Arts Festival A.K.A. X-Fest

This past weekend, Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) hosted the 2008 Experimental Arts Festival. Running for two days, this festival displayed contemporary art from a variety of categories. Each night, the theater performance had a different program, making it possible to see two nights of different performance art. I went on Friday, February 8th. In the lobby of the Center for the Performing Arts of PVCC, musicians played improvised electro-acoustic on classic instruments as well as unconventional items . The walls were lined with visual art that used various forms of media. After seeing and hearing the intriguing art in the lobby, I was excited to see what would be presented on the main stage.

The show began with a percussionist, Brett Reed from Crossing 32nd Street, who exuded passion through every inch of his body as he impressively played two different rhythms and intensities at once. Michael Gordon’s musical composition “XY” was followed by the group Office of Peculiar Scenes presenting the audience with serious body image topics through a series of amusing skits. Then the audience was given the opportunity to experience Kristen Loree playing the sad and pathetic vixen attempting to find her lover for the night in the audience. Loree demonstrated her ability to sing, act, and dominate the theater with her larger than life character. She had the entire audience laughing out loud one moment, feeling uncomfortable the next, while feeling sorry for her all at once.

The second half of the show consisted of three modern dance pieces that integrated other forms of art to add extra depth to the overall look and feel of the pieces.

“In the Temporal Dimension,” choreographed by Sonia Valle on PVCC dancers was a simple but clear piece blending the art of video and dance. The video in this piece was very well done by Arina Melkozernova. It contained the perfect amount of subtlety to make an impact on the piece without over powering the dancers or the choreography. The images of the subway and everyday people activity gave life to the gestures and spatial patterns occurring on stage. Although the choreography was minimal, the contact between the dancers was unexpected, keeping the piece interesting. Indeed, the dancers were unstable and unclear during unison phrases, but because of the human element in the choreography and video, the dancers’ weak technique was hardly bothersome.

Armadillo Dance Project presented “Playing with Liquid Mercury II,” in which choreographer Kathlaya Afanador collaborated with musician Allen Fogelsanger to produce a dance “in which movement interacts with other media via computer analysis of dancer-produced data.” Yes, that’s a lot of words. So, the dancers are being monitored by a computer. When the dancers move at a certain speed or in a particular area on the stage, specific melodies and noises come out for the audience to hear. This combination of the computer reacting to the dancers produced a cute and playful piece that the dancers were enjoying just as much as the audience.

Conder/DANCE performed “Moving Target,” a piece I reviewed in December for Breaking Ground 2007, but this performance was particularly exciting. The musicians of Crossing 32nd Street performed Steven Ricks’ composition live. The intensity of the live percussion raised the dancers’ intensity to a level I have not seen from this company, which says a lot. I am generally very impressed with the performers in Conder/DANCE, their precision and unbelievable sense of each other, and this performance is certainly no exception. They managed to go above and beyond their usual greatness. I was afraid the power of the drums in front of the stage would drown the dancers, but they embodied the force of the percussionists to create a thrilling experience.