Fringe Review: Ground Works at the Woodmere Art Museum–making sculptures dance and sing for Fringe 2018

Leah Stein, a dancer and teacher, has created a site-specific dance performance for Fringe 2018 outdoors on the grounds of the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill. The show uses three different sites and the seating was on moist bales of hay and a few stone benches, so creature comfort was not a salient feature.

The dancers appeared with no fanfare (Leah Stein doesn’t relish the formality of a stage), so it took the first alert audience members to point out that the young women in sweatpants in front of us were dancers, not latecomers to the show. Maddie Hopfield danced and tumbled and fought with a large tree branch and a copper pipe. She was eventually joined by dancers Jungwoong Kim and Michele Tantoco and a strolling bassoonist, Chuck Holdeman. (Full disclosure: I live with the bassoonist.) This first piece, Hill, was a rather amorphous tribute to a grassy knoll, which, in spite of inventive dancing, had very little to say.

The audience moved to the beautiful Harry Bertoia 1967 fountain sculpture entitled Free Interpretation of Plant Forms and the dance became more visual and sensual as the dancers stroked the petals of the floral sculpture and got themselves totally drenched in the fountain, writhing in the gravel fountain bed and making like bees enjoying the sculpted flower’s nectar. The dancers left, one by one, as the audience walked toward the third site.

Jungwoong Kim in Touch Stem at the Harry Bertoia fountain.
Jungwoong Kim at the Bertoia fountain for Touch Stem

The dancers re-appeared, having miraculously changed into dry clothing, and began to beat on, jump on, dance around the enormous Dina Wind sculpture Spring & Triangle. This third dance set was a delight – with the dancers seemingly free to act on impulse. The audience moved a lot, too, and the dancers had to dodge them. Jungwoong Kim leapt onto a tall ledge formed by the sculpture at a run, a graceful gazelle. The dancers climbed onto the sculpture, making the triangle section appear to be a sail as they leaned against it, and leaping off the base. Michele and Maddie made several rolls off the sculpture onto Jungwoong’s shoulders.

This third dance, which Leah Stein called Resonance, showed her imaginative dance ideas – having the dancers become part of the sculpture. The bassoonist crawled inside the sculpture and played a bass line with the dancers’ crooning voices, all echoing through the metal artwork, giving the performance a vividly resonant finale.

 

The three dancers on Dina Wind's Spring and Triangle for Resonance
Top to bottom:  Maddie Hopfield, Jungwoong Kim, and Michele Tantoco on Dina Wind’s Spring and Triangle for Resonance

(Ground Works, a site-specific dance performance for Fringe 2018,will be at Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia September 13 and 15 at 6 p.m. and September 16 at 5 pm. Tickets at fringearts.com/event/ground-works/)

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