Those of us who love classical music, ballet and opera know that it’s inherently cool. But the KC Fringe Festival ups the cool quotient by adding aerial acrobatics to ballet and glam rock and cat costumes to opera. Fringe also expands our notion of what classical music is by presenting traditional classical music and dance from non-European cultures.
The 12th annual KC Fringe Festival, which begins July 21, offers an exciting melange of cutting-edge entertainment that should appeal to adventurous classical fans.
“Many people do not realize that Fringe is literally for everyone and every art form,” said Cheryl Kimmi, executive director of KC Fringe. “It is an opportunity to try new things. There is music and dance and cabaret and film and spoken word and variety. The lion’s share of it is theater, but there is a place for all genres here.”
One of those genres is opera. Just don’t expect “La Boheme.” Think more “absurdist Cabaret Rock-Opera.”
That’s how the festival website describes “Vibralux: Dance of the Dolls,” a “meowtastic” opera by glam rocker Mercury Mad. Set in a Roman homeless shelter, this opera, performed in feline face-masks, explores the myths of Pygmalion and Galatea, Orpheus and Eurydice and Faust.
On a more traditional note, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City is collaborating with the Coterie theater and the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance in a project called Words + Music.
“Coterie had teens in its young playwrights workshop write short stories, and then they took those stories to the Conservatory’s composition students who set them to music, which will be sung by performers from the Lyric,” Kimmi said. “It’s a wonderful collaboration that lets the teens work with college students work with professional singers.”
This is the first year that Summerfest is participating in KC Fringe. The chamber ensemble will present a quirky program that includes “Animal Antics” by Lori Ardovino, a setting of Shel Silverstein poems for clarinet and narrator. Actor Robert Gibby Brand and clarinetist Jane Carl will do the honors.
There is plenty of dance on the schedule, too. Some of it is more traditional, like VidaDance, which incorporates classical ballet and pointe, jazz, tap and Irish Step. Or Kacico Dance, a good, solid, modern dance company.
But then there are groups like Cirque de l’air Cascades and Lucia Aerial Performing Arts, whose members are as much trapeze artists as dancers. They combine ballet with amazing aerial acrobatics that would make George Balanchine’s head spin.
“We have five different groups doing aerial this year,” Kimmi says. “Lucia is very similar to Quixotic. Jenny Prohaska (the director of Lucia Aerial Performing Arts) used to be a teacher at the Quixotic school before she opened her own. They are really building a name and reputation and doing a number of things around town. They do very, very nice work.”
Fringe isn’t just avant-garde and ultra-modern. It’s also about the venerable and ancient. This year, Fringe mainstay Nritya School of Indian Dance and Music returns with a program solidly rooted in Indian tradition. Gaziyeh Enterprises will combine the old and the new with its “Cinderella,” which blends Egyptian belly dancing and American cabaret.
“Fringe is a chance for people to step out of their comfort zone and try new things,” Kimmi said. “There is a lot of amazing creativity and a lot of talent. The bar continues to rise every year.”
In addition to tickets for individual events, you also need to buy a $5 button to attend the festival. One button is good for all performances and can be purchased at any event venue. The buttons are also available at Fringe 411 in Union Station. For a complete schedule and more information, visit KCFringe.org.
KC Fringe classical highlights
Gaziyeh Enterprises: A Cinderella Story. 3 p.m. July 23; 6 p.m. July 29; 7:30 p.m. July 30. Bolender Center, 500 W. Pershing Road
Kacico Dance: A Silent Majority. 9 p.m. July 22; 6 p.m. July 23; 4:30 p.m. July 24. Bolender Center
Lucia Aerial Performing Arts: Orlo. 4:30 p.m. July 23; 7:30 p.m. July 25; 9 p.m July 30. Union Station City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Road
Lyric Opera/Coterie/UMKC: Words + Music. 6 p.m. July 23; 7:30 p.m. July 27; 4:30 p.m. July 30. Union Station City Stage
Nritya: Dance and Music of India. 1:30 p.m. July 24; 7:30 p.m. July 29; 3 p.m. July 30. Union Station City Stage
Seamless Dance Theatre: Beginning Tomorrow. 7:30 p.m. July 22; 6 p.m. July 25; 6 p.m. July 28; 9 p.m. July 30. Bolender Center
Summerfest: Animal Antics. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. July 22. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 1307 Holmes St.
Trilogy Cultural Arts: ECHO and Narcissus. 6 p.m. July 22; 3 p.m. July 24; 7:30 p.m. July 25 and 29; 4:30 p.m. July 30. Bolender Center
Vibralux: Dance of the Dolls. 10:30 p.m. July 22; 9 p.m. July 27; 10:30 p.m. July 29. Arts Asylum, 1000 E. 9th St.
VidaDance: From This Pointe On. 7:30 p.m. July 23; 6 p.m. July 26; 7:30 p.m. July 28; 9 p.m. July 29. Bolender Center