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Female coreographed ballet takes the stage

by Margaret Stewart - Managing Editor
Tue, Sep 17th 2019 11:00 pm
Rochester held its annual Fringe Festival which included 575 shows. `Pearl: Secrets of the Sea` and `Rise Up Lights` happened on Saturday Sept. 14 and Friday Sept. 13 respectively.
Rochester held its annual Fringe Festival which included 575 shows. "Pearl: Secrets of the Sea" and "Rise Up Lights" happened on Saturday Sept. 14 and Friday Sept. 13 respectively.

Fringe Fest is the largest annual festival hosted in the city of Rochester, NY. Roc’s Fringe Fest is based on the eight theatrical groups that performed in 1947 on the outskirts or “the fringe” of the Edinburgh International Festival. 

According to rochesterfringe.com, “today, there are more than 200 fringe festivals worldwide, with a growing list of 50 in the U.S. and counting.”

This year marks the seventh annual Fringe Fest in Rochester and will feature international, national and local artists as it has in years prior.

“Rochester’s Fringe is a proud member of the US Association of Fringe Festivals, and is already one of the largest in the country, having drawn more than 78,000 attendees in 2018” with the number expected to increase for the 2019 season, as reported on rochesterfringe.com.

Rochester has always had a strong connection to the arts and with a lineup of 575 acts over 12 days, there is plenty of entertainment for residents of all ages. 

“We are — above all ­­­­­— a true community festival run by a Rochester non-profit with local board, staff and support and each year we work hard to engage more and more of the community we serve,” Rochester Fringe Festival Board Chairperson Justin L. Vigdor said.

One event open to people ages five and above is “Rise Up Lights” performed by the Rochester City Ballet. 

According to the Fringe Festival Guide, the ballet is described as “a non-stop thread of movement, shifting back and forth from solo work to ensemble pieces.”

Hosted at the School of the Arts (SOTA) at the Allen Main Stage Theatre, the ballet is the product of up and coming female choreographer Francesca Genovese.

“This celebration of power in dance emphasizes the force of female dancers,” the guide read.

While female dancers make up a vast majority of the ballet community, choreography has long been a male dominated field.

“80% of ballets are choreographed by men, today you’re seeing one choreographed by a woman,” Executive Director Nichole Gantshar said. “A brand new choreographer looking to make her mark.” 

While ballet is often thought to be a more rigid, precise style of dance, Genovese worked to subvert the audience’s expectations with a more modern twist. 

The performance only lasted 30 minutes but was packed with a lot of isolated movements accompanied by syncopated music. It was a far cry from “The Nutcracker” but technically and stylistically still grounded in the world of ballet.

Choreographer James Hansen opened the performance with a piece titled “Ophelia’s Reclamation.” The piece featured micro movements with exaggerated extensions that captured the full motion of the body. Hansen utilized silence to his advantage in order to pull the audience’s attention and create a sense of tension and suspense between the dancer and his environment.

The performance transitioned in to Genovese’s works through interludes, allowing the performers time to get ready for the next part. “The Interludes” seemed to read as two segments of the same work. They featured harmonic beats inspiring syncopated fluidity which connected not only the different “The Interludes” but all of the pieces together.

The rest of her pieces also felt harmonious despite their segmentation. The only indication one piece ended and the next began was the subtle pause from all of the dancers and a dip in the music before proceeding. 

With the minimal costumes that consisted of muted colors fitting the dancers like a second skin, there was a rawness to their performance. The dancers bore themselves to the music, to the art and to the audience. 

Through an organized chaos, the men circulate around stone faced, impassive females as they make their way across the stage. Though somewhat robotic in their movements as was the intent, they are not just going through their motions.

After a few upbeat pieces, “Taro” was slower and allowed the female dancers to play with sound and fluidity instead of isolations. 

As this program was going on SOTA was also hosting “Drive In Dramas,” a sold out performance featuring classic cars accompanied by a ten minute play.

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