Cincinnati Gets the Fringe of It

"What's the difference between dancing and moving?  What's the difference between music and sound?"  Lindsey Jones asks as she explains the original impetus for That One Show, which will be performed by Pones Inc at the Cincy Fringe Festival this June. 

"That's what we want people to ask themselves when they see this show, and that's what we asked people during the interviews we did to prepare for it." 

That One Show is a fusion of documentary footage from over 100 interviews that Pones Artistic Directors (and Northern Kentucky University dance and theatre alumnae)Lindsey Jones and Kim Popa conducted, woven into a fabric of contemporary dance and movement.  Originally the footage was going to be used purely for the process of creating the show, "But the more we watched it, the more we thought, 'No. This is the show,'"  Kim Popa reflects.  "We based this on a show we did before which asked the same questions, but it was really only our perspective.  This time we wanted it to be multidimensional, with many opinions from many different voices."

300 miles away in Chicago, Allyson Esposito, artistic director of The Space/Movement Project which will perform Safety in Numbers at the Cincy Fringe, uses words that sound much closer to Pones than the mileage would indicate. 

"Safety in Numbers combines the voices of many different choreographers, and the flavors of many different parts of Chicago.  Everyone in our company has a different experience of living in the city - some people came for anonymity, some are part of many different communities here - the show is all those different perspectives,"  Esposito says.

Like Pones, their show also holds a sense of diverse pieces being stitched together to create a beautiful and complete fabric.  The Space/Movement Project in fact worked with a seamstress to create patchwork costumes out of different pieces of wool. 

"Chicago is a very segregated city, each neighborhood is separate: it's a patchwork city.  That being said, our approach to the work is to come together, discuss what we've all been thinking about, and then create our different perspectives in the work from what we learned in collaboration."

"The show really wrote itself," Kim and Lindsey agree, thinking back on creating That One Show. "We got together with the cast, and let ourselves talk about the interviews since the show's intention is to spark conversation.  It seemed since the show is a community of people, that it should be created that way.  It's not our work, it's everyone's work."

The inclusive nature of both these companies and the collaborative aspect of their creativity perfectly reflect the milieu of the Fringe Festival itself.  Bringing together local, national, and international artists from different backgrounds and different approaches to creation, the Festival is a unique opportunity for these pieces of the global artistic face to form a community. 

"When they come together, the energy, passion, creativity (and more than a little beer) join together to create something unlike any other place and time in the city.  It's inspiring to see," says Eric Vosmeier, the managing director of both the Know Theatre and the Fringe Festival.  The Festival also draws an audience from many different parts of Cincinnati and her suburbs, bringing together the patchwork of this city to welcome the artists and make their work possible. 

"It's the community that comes together to create the Festival by volunteering, buying tickets, sponsoring a venue, providing housing for out-of-town artists," he says. And it's the community that finds a common ground in the performance venues of Over-the-Rhine, sharing the diverse and universally human expressions of these artists.

In the first years that Pones Inc. and The Space/Movement Project were establishing themselves in their respective cities, both companies felt the challenges of not owning their own space in which to rehearse and perform.  But as the years passed and the companies developed, each has found freedom and opportunity in their gypsy nature. 

"We make it a point to never perform in the same venue twice," Allyson Esposito reveals, which has brought them in contact with many of the different communities of the Patchwork City.  Using unconventional spaces, art galleries, or even churches Allyson, Lindsey, and Kim all separately agree that their work has become much more alive because it can't help but be a reaction to their environment.  The Space/Movement Project danced in a parking space for an hour; Pones Inc. took a movement piece onto the Cincinnati buses.  Both groups ask their audiences to re-evaluate "What is Dance?"

"For us, that question becomes more clear when we invite new people to join in our work," Lindsey Jones says.  "Often the inspiration is people who have no formal dance training.  There's a universal feeling that not everyone can dance, and we need to break that.  We need a new idea of dance.  Because everyone has a social, personal experience of it - we all have bodies.  We need to all meet each other.  This work is ultimately about human interaction. There are so many amazing artists in this city.  Let's collaborate."

That same urge to break barriers and predetermined definitions of dance is the lifeblood of The Space/Movement Project.  "All of our company members come from different backgrounds - we have ballet dancers, yoga teachers, contemporary movers," Allyson Esposito says, "and we always involve at least one other kind of artist.  Sometimes we have an actor, and we recently collaborated with a composer from Seattle.  In Chicago, the contemporary dance scene is very small.  There's only one kind of company that's prevalent.  We're proud what we're doing is different."

As the Fringe Festival approaches, Cincinnati has the chance to come together as the artists have and ask the same questions through the experiential inquiry of performance.  For 17 days, Over-the-Rhine will be filled with the experimentation that the Festival offers as a means to an answer.  Perhaps that answer will never be reached, for everybody has a different experience.  But an understanding of that very question could be deepened as we listen to our newcomers and we listen to ourselves.

For more information on the Cincy Fringe Festival, and to buy your Fringe Pass, visit here.


Photography by Tiffani Fisher

Pones Inc rehearsing at Northern Kentucky University

The Space/Movement Project (photos provided)

The Know Theater