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By Kina Poon
Cie Willi Dorner in Bodies in Urban Spaces at the 2008 Live Arts Festival. Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou, Courtesy PLA.
Philadelphia rallies around adventurous performance from Sept. 2–17 at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Nick Stuccio, a former dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet and Live Arts’ producing director, co-founded the festival for experimental dance, theater, and art in 1997 after traveling to the Edinburgh International Festival. From the start, audiences, encouraged by low ticket prices, skewed young. As in Edinburgh, there are two simultaneous festivals: Live Arts and Philly Fringe (more than 40 dance artists/companies participated in the two festivals in 2010).
Vienna-based choreographer Willi Dorner, whose inventive, playful works have been hits in previous years, has been commissioned a new site-specific piece. “Willi’s mind is laser sharp,” says Stuccio. “I’ve watched him stare at a column and boom, he sees how 11 dancers can weave themselves around it. They’re pretty exquisite tableaus.” Dorner has, in the past, literally stopped traffic. “That’s the best part, the accidental encounter,” says Stuccio, “when people are just frozen, going, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ”
Another highlight comes courtesy of the brainy choreographer John Jasperse, who debuts his evening-length Canyon. “I am absolutely attracted to his intellect, his humor,” says Stuccio about Jasperse, “and also his understanding of the kinetics of the body.”
Stuccio is constantly striving to bring bigger and better productions to Philly, plus help the festival’s ever-expanding audience understand the work onstage. He hopes to purchase a building to serve as a home base. Beyond offices, studios, and a theater for its residency program, he’s keen to secure a bar/restaurant/café. “We’re centering it all on this social space,” he says. “It’s not just about a show, it’s about an experience.”