2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘In the Clearing’ at Birds on a Wire

Birds on a Wire takes Fringe-goers on an evocative journey into the woods in a short-run premiere of its newest modern dance piece In the Clearing. The full-length adventure, choreographed and directed with imaginative vision by the young company’s Founding Artistic Director Melissa Cameron, is performed by an expressive all-female troupe of seven—Kate Abernethy, CrystalNicole, Vanessa Erin Gross, Kathy Kerner, Claire Lutz, Brianne Scott, and Molly Woytowicz–who reveal the secrets of nature and human nature that unfold at night in an opening amidst the trees.

Featured dancer CrystalNicole. Pre-production photo by Plate 3 Photography.
Featured dancer CrystalNicole. Pre-production photo by Plate 3 Photography.

The dancers are entrancing in their beautifully executed interpretive movements. They deliver a fundamental message about the balance of life’s forces, imparting a sense of earthiness while rolling and slithering on the ground, intrigue and danger as they run through the mysterious clearing, tension and fearfulness as they stalk, encounter, and tumble with each other, and joyful exuberance as they gracefully kick and leap through patches of illumination in the darkness, effectively lit by Michael Lambui. Their solos are captivating, their ensemble work is supportive and synchronized, and simple costumes by Ixchel Mendez allow them full freedom of movement.

2-birds-on-a-wire-in-the-clearing-posterOriginal music composed by Cory Neale provides a transportive soundscape with the reverberating notes of flutes, primal drumbeats, running water, chirping birds and insects, and the uncanny voices of sylvan spirits, all of which enhance the shifting emotions of the dance.

Kevin Jordan’s in-the-round scenic design encircles the audience with vertical strips of painted white trees, before which you are welcome to set your blanket and enjoy a picnic for a fully immersive experience; the dancers, are not confined to a stage, but move through the clearing and all around you, for an up-close-and-personal encounter.

The family-friendly company welcomes audiences of all ages to In the Clearing, but be forewarned that noisy and inattentive children can be a mood-shattering distraction from the hypnotic quality of this spellbinding piece, as was the case at the matinee performance.

Running Time: Approximately 45 minutes, without intermission.

In the Clearing plays through Saturday, September 10, 2016, performing at Christ Church Neighborhood House – 20 North American Street, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call (215) 413-1318, or purchase them online.

Listen to sound samples by Cory Neale.


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Deb Miller
Deb has written reviews, interviews, and feature articles for Stage Magazine, theartblog, and Inferno, and is a lead writer for Phindie.com and the Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice. She is a judge for Theatre Philadelphia's Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, and previously was a Voter for the awards under the former Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Deb holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware, has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and has taught at the U of D, Bryn Mawr, Rutgers-Camden, Hussian School of Art, and Rowan University.


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