Tromp of feet returns to the Fringe Festival

05:00 AM, Sep 26, 2013

Partygoers came out for Silent Disco at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. (Kyle R. Schwab)/


Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff music critic

The Spiegeltend, the vintage curiosity at the intersection of Gibbs and E. Main St., is the most-visible aspect of the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival, now that the skyscraper-dancing Bandaloop troupe has left town. And earlier this week its wooden floor resounded with the clop of Timberlands and high heels alike.

That tromp of feet returns for the final two nights of the fest, Friday and Saturday, and the Silent Disco which starts at 10 p.m. Everyone listening to the music through earphones, and the fact that they can choose one of two songs to dance to, doesn’t do much for the limber chaos of the dance floor. And it’s very odd to hear the spontaneous a cappella renderings of dancers singing along to The Jackson 5’s “A-B-C” or more up-to-date electronic dance music.

It could be argued that what’s missing here is communal sweat and the sternum-rattling bass. But that’s the sacrifice that’s made for the most unique aspect of Silent Disco: That you can slip off the headphones and talk to each other in this dance club. And if you’re on the dance floor, what everyone’s talking about, as you flail away, is you.

Getting organized

One of Rochester’s true cultural treasures — standing with the George Eastman House, Artisan Works and The Campbell Brothers — is the amazing Craighead-Saunders pipe organ of Christ Church, which Martin Herchenröder turned loose Thursday at what was not only a Fringe happening, but the first event of the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative.

A composer, organist and teacher at Siegen University in Germany, Herchenröder had a nice audience on hand for Rhythm and Color: Organ Music 1962-2012. The program showcased the diversity of the new organ, a near-replica of an ancient instrument in Vilnius, Lithuania, with pieces ranging from Olivier Messiaen’s 1957 “Les Maines de l’Abime” to the world premiere of Michel Pelzel’s Étude-bagatelle II. Despite the Gothic immensity of the Craighead-Saunders and its Christ Church surroundings, and the inherent classical sound of such an instrument, the pieces frequently ventured into avant-garde territory. This is inevitable whenever John Cage is invited into the house. His piece, Souvenir, combined the tranquility of the photo of a Japanese stone garden projected onto a screen at the front of the sanctuary, but also in the sudden eruptions of sauropodian grunts.

Further demonstrating the dexterity of the Craighead-Saunders was Wolfgang Stockmeier’s Woman Dancer Listening to the Organ in a Gothic Cathedral, with a light theme throughout that was almost glockenspiel in nature.

One other interesting aspect of this performance. The organist is generally hidden away, out of sight of the audience. But a video camera broadcast to a smaller screen set up in the sanctuary revealed the image of Herchenröder and two assistants working away at the keyboard and stops, parting the curtain, revealing the Wizard of Craighead-Saunders.

Waiting for the sun

Twenty speaker boxes, each topped by a solar panel, look to the sun in the grass courtyard in front of Christ Church on East Avenue.

It is Sun Boxes, a field of gentle ambient tones, each box tuned to a slightly different note composed by the sun.

It’s the work of Craig Colorusso, who’s currently of Arkansas, but has otherwise lived a nomadic life along the East Coast. A video in the host Rochester Contemporary Arts Center explains that Sun Boxes was inspired by Colorusso seeing a field defined by the fireflies flitting about it.

In the court yard, Colorusso took a break from repositioning the boxes in the sun as the deadly shadows reached across the courtyard, which is a part of the piece; the creator caught in a choreography to keep his meditative tones alive. He explained that he is a “recovering musician,” and Sun Boxes is meant to be something for “the masses to come up and touch.” He first set it up in the Nevada desert, just a few miles from Death Valley, and has also had it on a beach, a frozen lake, a handful of Vermont state parks and at a wedding. Colorusso’s goal is to set it up in all 50 states. He’s at nine.

Sun Boxes returns to the courtyard late Friday morning and lasts until its solar panels fade in the shade, probably at around 5:30 p.m.

Dance Das Capital

Colleen Culley’s explanation of her dance Get A Foot in the Door: The Dance of Late Capitalism is simple enough. In thinking about her own body movements as a dancer, “People who have other jobs besides dance are also being trained to move for their jobs,” she told her audience at Bernunzio Uptown Music.

Oh great. That means people slumped over in office cubicles, blood running out of their ears. I see that every day.

Culley’s too young to be so cynical. The show opens with a half-dozen members of the dance troupe sitting and reading snatches of inspiration from corporate advice books. Virgin Airlines CEO Richard Branson’s Virginity, Dale Carnagie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People. A video depicted a line of people passing boxes, like one of those corporate exercises that shows employees how to work together as the dancers trudged behind the screen, hands working as if they were working an invisible keyboard. And they held up hand-made signs expressing sentiments from both ends of the business spectrum. “Money-Grubbin’ Jerks.” “Undervalued.” “Reptillian $ Monger.” The regulations for proper posture while sitting at a computer station were read aloud. And appropriate music was heard, such as “500 Robots” by Rochester’s Hypnotic Clambake.

Is Culley too young for such curmudgeoness? If so, Get a Foot in the Door is ahead of its time.