Review: ‘Kitchen Sink Fest’ at Dance Place

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The amount of possibility encapsulated in one minute is a daunting thing to think about, and I pondered such a thing as I waited for the sold out performance of Kitchen Sink Fest to begin on Saturday evening. While I knew that a great deal of the artists in the DC dance scene were participating in the evening, there was so much I didn’t know. This alone drew me to the event from the first snippets I had seen popping up on social media in the months and weeks leading up the performance.

So often, perhaps too often, we know the general ideas, be them thematic or movement-related, that our DC-area artists showcase in evenings of their work. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a comfort. We tend to give our patronage to companies producing work we gravitate towards, and there is comfort in the familiar. On the flipside of this familiarity is a thirst for something new, refreshing, a little out-of-the-box, and other. That thirst for the unknown hooked me, and much of the audience, at the opening night performance.

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In his program note, Producing Director/Set Designer Ben Levine presented the tenets of Kitchen Sink Fest, namely time, space, theater magic, editing, and collaboration. These five elements of the evening were all on display, however some more than others. Space, theater magic, and collaboration were clearly on display in every performance and installation on the program.

Time was adhered to in performance, but seemed to be lacking in transitions, which on the whole ran longer than a minute. I find it hard to justify having an audience sit through more minutes of transitions than dances. We all know that glitches are one of the joys of live performance, and the audience seemed to have bought into the performance enough that this wasn’t a severe deterrent. Editing is a tricky tenet to hold to, especially in the first year of a festival of any sort. Striking a balance between aiming too high and too low, in terms of programming, is difficult. I do not envy this aspect of the Producing Director’s job, but the program did feel long, especially toward the middle of Act II, after Act I’s twenty dances and the thirty-five minute “Intermission,” during which audience members were encouraged to take in any of the ten installations happening simultaneously throughout the space.

There were definite highlights to the evening, in the realms of dance, dance theatre, and technical theatre. The Introduction, during which the audience was introduced to all of the performers, and given a run-down of Kitchen Sink Fest in a nutshell, in one minute, had a self-aware humor to it and a fast-enough pace that catapulted the audience into the evening.

Precious Moment, choreographed by Sadie Leigh with set design by Ben Levine, was a fast-paced yet casual look at the various types of relationships within a given group of friends/acquaintances. With a tone similar to your favorite episode of Broad City and a smart distillation of clear moments and character, this piece has stayed with me long after the performance.

Half Time, with choreography and performance by Tia Nina, was a blast! The energy radiating from this strong trio of women was palpable, and their use of humor and repetition made for a jam-packed minute.

Dodec-A, with choreography and performance by darlingdance company, managed to make a math problem entertaining, involved a wear-able dodecahedron, and gave you a reference to the modern dance goddess Yvonne Rainer. What more could you ask for in sixty seconds?

Ben Levine on Kitchen Sink Fest set pieces. Photo by Sarah Chapin.
Ben Levine on ‘Kitchen Sink Fest’ set pieces. Photo by Sarah Chapin.

Sarah Greenbaum’s Hair Beast, a duet for two women in front of the main drape curtain, was a smart use of space, with a fierce ping-pong effect from stage left to stage right, and ended with the two women’s hair braided as one, which was a fast-paced twist and a smart quirk.

The highlights of Act II for this audience member began with Proximity, choreographed by Laura Schandelmeier and Stephen Clapp. This athletic male solo was sound scored based on the dancer’s proximity to a piece of equipment, and the proximity to the equipment dictated the pitch of the sound. The intersection of technical theatre and dance was a stellar start to Act II.

Claire Alrich’s Part III was a beautiful interaction of the three dancers performing live with two dancers projected onto the marley floor. The supple movements on the floor and geometric formations with the two projected dancers made for a visually striking minute of dance. 1, or 6, Moments From Our Gardens, concept and performance by Matthew Cumbie and Sam Horning, began as a vivid retelling of distinct memories for numbers one through three, and a the piece progressed the memories for the higher numbers became less specific. The balancing, headstands, and pedestrian feel to the piece was refreshing. The sixth moment, “We arrived but just for a minute,” felt poetic without being saccharine, and suited the performances of the two men.

In Everything But The…, choreographed by The Tech Team (Sarah Chapin, Annie Choudhury, and Ben Levine), performers through a menagerie of items out of a closet. The unexpected nature of what was being thrown out of the closet was highly entertaining and gratifying. The culmination of the piece with the explosion of a confetti cannon capped off the first performance in a moment that felt simultaneously momentous and appropriate.

Dance Place.
Dance Place.

While I may never know why this performance centered around dodecahedron of various sizes, or why the transitions got gradually longer as the performance went on, I do know that this is a festival I would LOVE to see become a staple in the DC-area dance season. With some time away from what must have been quite an administratively heavy feat, and listening to their own tenet of editing, I could see the team at Dance Place come back with a more curated, well-transitioned, and tighter event. Perhaps we in the audience could even get in on what seemed to be an artist only dodecahedron love affair?

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 35-minute intermission to explore installations throughout the Dance Place offices and theatre spaces.

Kitchen Sink Fest was performed on July 30th at 8 p.m. and July 31, 2016 at 7 p.m. at Dance Place – 3225 8th Street NE, in Washington, DC.

https://youtu.be/pI00IbAsTC4

Dance Place offers classes for youth and adults, as well as year-round programming from DC-area artists and touring artists as well. For more information about classes and performances, check out their website!

LINKS:
In the Moment: ‘Kitchen Sink Fest’ at Dance Place Part 1: An Interview with Ben Levine by David Siegel.

In the Moment: ‘Kitchen Sink Fest’ at Dance Place: Part 2: 7 Dancers on Their 1 Minute Pieces by David Siegel.