Season Preview: Philadelphia Live Arts 2011

Catherine Sluser in Swim Pony's "Lady M". Photo by Mark Valenzuela.

Coming up this weekend, Philadelphia Live Arts kicks off (Sept. 2-17), the contemporary performance showcase that unfolds opposite the Philly Fringe. The line-up features a variety of artists, some familiar to New York, some less so, with a selection of Philadelphia’s top theater and dance companies.

One of the most unique events of the festival will most likely be Play (Sept. 15-17), a new dance commissioned by Live Arts in its only US appearance. Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and French choreographer Shantala Shivalingappa come at dance from differing perspectives: Cherkaoui is a trained contemporary dancer, while Shivalingappa is a classically trained Indian Kuchipudi dancer. In Play, the two essentially riff off of each other’s distinctive styles and approaches, producing a transcultural experiment in form and content. Both artists will also be presenting work separately, with Shivalingappa showing the traditional piece Namasya (Sept. 11-12), while Cherkaoui, along with Gilles Delmas, have brought in an installation piece called Zon-Mai (throughout the entire run), which presents video of dancers from around the world performing in their own homes.

On the theater front, one of the most interesting shows promises to be The Devil and Mr. Punch (Sept. 8-16), a world premiere from London’s Improbable, the same company behind Shockheaded Peter, the pulpy, prurient operetta based on a 19th century pop-up book satirizing moralistic children’s lit. The Devil and Mr. Punch likewise shows an interest in the intersection of violence and children’s art, taking Punch and Judy shows as its subject.

Improbable's "The Devil and Mister Punch."

Philadelphia’s arts community is represented through several pieces. Headlong Dance debuts a new work, Red Rovers (Sept. 2-10), an interactive piece on the intersection of art and science, which explores robotic investigations of Mars. Swim Pony Performing Arts is premiering Lady M (Sept. 1-9), an adaptation of Macbeth. Pig Iron, Philadelphia’s most accomplished devising company, return with Twelfth Night, or What You Will (Sept. 1-17), a chaotic adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. And finally New Paradise Laboratories, the people who brought us Freedom Club last year, return with Extremely Public Displays of Privacy (throughout), a performance that occurs both in reality and online.

Otherwise, Live Arts features a roster of top artists from the US who are currently on tour. Austin’s Rude Mechs are bringing the incredible The Method Gun to town (Sept. 2-4). And New York dance is represented by both John Jasperse with Canyon (Sept. 9-11), appearing later this fall at BAM, and Kyle Abraham’s in town The Radio Show (Sept. 16-17), which will also be at Portland’s TBA Festival this month, and is part of On the Boards’ season in Seattle. International artists include Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner, French choreographer Xavier Le Roy (who brings the piece to New York for Crossing the Line in September), and Montreal-based circus company 7 Fingers.

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