- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2007

Washington’s second annual Fringe Festival is a feisty, funky, fearless jamboree with one main rule: no rules. Fringe may be in its infancy here, but its basic idea was born 60 years ago in Scotland when eight artists, not invited to participate in the prestigious Edinburgh Festival with top international performers, decided to start a show of their own on the fringes of the site.

Six decades later the concept of the Edinburgh Fringe is booming; Fringe offshoots now pop up from Nova Scotia to Hong Kong, Seattle to New Delhi, Orlando to Bangkok.

The “no rules” of the original Fringe were actually four rules: (1) noncurated shows, chosen either by first come or by lottery; (2) 100 percent of box office receipts go to the artists; (3) total artistic freedom as to content; and (4) easy access between the audience and the artists.

Damian Sinclair, executive director of Washington’s Fringe, says those “nonrules” are pretty much in place here. Last year, every artist who applied was admitted. This year so many applied that the cut-off date was November. Next year he is hoping for even more applications and would like to choose by lottery.

In answer to a question about how he would handle a situation like the one in the ‘60s when a group of New York dancers wanted to perform naked in a museum with American flags around their necks, Mr. Sinclair reaffirmed the need for “100 percent artistic freedom” but added, “I would probably put them in Warehouse Arts as opposed to a church venue. We’re very sensitive to the worries and concerns of our venues and slot people appropriately.”

Here in Washington, Fringe may be new, but its edginess fills a need for a city characterized by official pomp and circumstance.

Among the 120-plus groups that will appear here beginning Thursday, 15 are dance projects. Dance by its nature often requires more of everything — space, lighting, sound — than do many improv, comedy and puppetry groups — although theater and musicals also require more.

Two of Washington’s more established dance companies head the dance card, but they meet the adventuresome quotient: Both are pursuing groundbreaking choices.

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is renowned nationally for finding unusual subjects and choosing unusual performers to present them. Next weekend, beginning Friday, the company and some offbeat and appealing guest artists are dancing — and speaking — in “The Farthest Earth From Thee: Remixed,” an engrossing and daring look at some of Shakespeare’s sonnets, performed with multimedia pizazz. It would be hard not to be moved by this extraordinary work, conceived and directed by Peter DiMuro. Friday through July 22 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. www.danceexchange.org.

Washington Reflections Dance Company is seeing how far it can go in combining the refined technique of ballet and the lusty one of hip-hop in a single dance. Catch this Thursday and Friday at the company’s new home at Gala Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW, www.danceinstitute.org.

Other dance groups cover a range of subjects, styles and approaches:

m “(re)Turn,” Christina Rojas’ dances about the sun, moon, nightfall and fleeting love. July 23, 26 and 27, Atlas Performing Arts Center, www.floydprojectdance.com.

m In “69 Ways to Fall in Love,” Basso Moderno Duo and Love Your Mother Performance Projects let Cupid tell about the many ways of love, illuminated by lush lighting and musical soundscapes. July 22, 24, 25 and 27, Warehouse Arts, 301/542-7643.

m Tehreema Mitha Dance Company draws from classical Indian dance and modern dance. Friday through July 22, and July 24, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, www.tehreemamitha-dancecompany.org.

m “Death Before Dying: A Modern Dance Drama,” by Nautch in collaboration with Jane Franklin, juxtaposes passion, love and freedom against society pressures. July 21, 24, 26 and 28, Warehouse Arts, www.broad gauge.org.

m “deFINDing moments,” by the women’s group Floyd Project Dance Company, interweaves choreography, words and video. July 27 through 29, Atlas Performing Arts, www.floydprojectdance.com.

m “En Route,” Arts United of Washington’s snapshots of Americana by dancers and musicians playing jazz, folk and rock ‘n’ roll. Friday through July 23, Mead Theatre Lab, 916 G St. NW, www.artsuniteddc.org.

m Against a backdrop of war, “Human,” Dissonance Dance Theatre, questions what constitutes rational behavior in the 21st century. Friday and July 21 and 24, Atlas Performing Arts, www.ddtdc.com.

m “On your soapbox slipping …” features three choreographers, Paulina Guerrero, Erin Mitchell and Hannah Kerr, together with local musicians who tackle such subjects as feminine power. Friday and July 21, 24, 26 and 29, Atlas Performing Arts, www.atlasarts.org.

m “Our Love Is Empty.” Transport (Nicholette Routhier and Wendell Cooper) performs a risky duet about addiction, abuse and the source of love. July 23, 27 and 28, Atlas Performing Arts, www.atlasarts .org.

m “Pop Up Dances.” Momentum Dance Theater draws crowds to its free performances on downtown street corners, plazas and parks, performing a high-energy mix of jazz, hip-hop, Latin, house and theater dance. Various times, www.momentumdancetheatre.com.

m “The steam sequence.” Carly Sachs, Shannon Dunne and Samantha Montgomery remember the Holocaust through a poetry and dance performance. July 25, Theater J, 1529 16th St. NW, www.fivefeetabovewater.blogspot.com.

m “Works for the Living.” WEERD SISTERS, choreographer and poet Diana Tokaji, saxophonist Elijah Balbed, singer Chinwe Enu join sign-language dramatists in a sensory ride. Friday and July 22, 28 and 29, Warehouse Arts, www.dianatokaji.com.

m Nancy Havlik’s Dance Group will perform a tongue-in-cheek “Cabaret Extraordinaire.” July 21, 25 and 26, Atlas Performing Arts, www.nancyhavlikdance.org.

Meanwhile, over at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland (which remains the largest in the world with 1,867 shows in 261 venues), a Washington group has made the cut. The all-male Edgeworks Dance Theater directed by Helanius J. Wilkins will present “Melting the Edges,” about the experiences of black men, next month.

WHAT: 2007 Second Fringe Festival with 15 dance groups participating

WHEN: Thursday through July 29. Consult individual groups for performance times.

WHERE: Various venues around town, including Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE; Warehouse Arts, 1021 Seventh St. NW; and Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW. Some free performances at street corners and parks

TICKETS: Free to $30. Most are $20 to $25.

INFORMATION: 202/731-6645, www.capfringe.org or individual groups’ Web sites

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