Arts Watch: Winter Theater & Dance Festivals Kick Off 2013

Body Cartography Project with Zeena Parkins will premier at this year’s American Realness Festival. Photo by Gene Pittman.

2013  is off to an incredible “art start” here on the L.E.S. with three theater festivals kicking off this week.  A few blocks north, The Public Theater’s annual Under The Radar Festival (UTR), now in its ninth year, opens on Wednesday and runs through January 20th. UTR is known for its mostly international lineup of new and experimental work by ensembles, solo artists and independent writers. If you want a crash course in exciting independent theater, The Public is the place to be this week.  A highlight for me is the return of the remarkable Belarus Free Theatre, a radical human rights based company devoted to resistance of the current Belarus political regime.

PS 122, which is presenting its season in borrowed spaces as renovations for its E. 9th Street home continue, kicks off its annual winter performance festival, COIL, at ten venues over 17 days, including LES’s Dixon Place. This week at Dixon you can continue to immerse yourself in international theater with The Curators’ Piece (A Trial Against Art) from Croatia’s Tea Tupajić and Petra Zanki. An intense ‘live trial’ developed with an international team of curators, who also act as the cast,  The Curators’ Piece pits art against its protagonists, “challenging the utopian ideal of the responsibility of art to a wider society.” A little closer to home, the LES’s own Peggy Shaw, of the famed Split Britches theater company, performs her one woman tour-de-force Ruff.

Finally, there is the American Realness Festival at Abrons Arts Center. The festival, which was born right here on the Lower East Side three years ago, focuses on contemporary American dance theater artists, performers, choreographers and composers.

This year’s festival features several New York premieres including choreographer Jeanine Durning’s solo performance, inging. Encore performances from past festivals are also being presented, including Trajal Harrell’s 2012 Bessie-winning Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (L).  The festival will include a special focus on the relationship between improvised music and dance by pairing choreographers with live musicians, plus a series of hands-on workshops, symposiums, and “Show and Tell” peeks at shows in progress.

In addition, American Realness will take over Abrons’ art galleries with the interactive exhibit, The Flowchart Project: Mapping a History of Contemporary Dance and Choreography by The Bureau for the Future of Choreography, in which festival goers get to participate in the “authorship” of a decade-to-decade timeline of contemporary dance.

No American Realness Festival would be complete without an all-night party. This year, independent dance organizers and activists AUNTS take over all three performance spaces for AUNTS realness, an all-night extravaganza of unabashed experimentation.

If you need a little “Sherapy” after all this art seeing, be sure to schedule an appointment for a “one on one session” with Ann Liv Young and The Sherry Truck, both of whom will be making appearances throughout the course of the festival.  Be sure to stop by to pick up a pink latté and purchase one of a kind ALY memorabilia!

Under the Radar Festival / Public Theater / 425 Lafayette Street / January 9 – 20 / $20

Coil 2013 / Dixon Place / 161A Chrystie Street / January 10 – 19 / $20, $15 students, seniors

American Realness / Abrons Arts Center / 466 Grand Street / January 10 – 20 / $20