International innovation: Dance, theater, visual arts, from local to international, showcased in Philly’s International Festival of the Arts

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Sixteen days, more than 60 multi-discipline performances.
Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will be the world’s artistic ground zero April 8-23 for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA).
PIFA curator Jay Wahl summarized it as “pushing the boundaries of performance expression through art and culture.”
This is the third Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. The first was held in 2011. “That tells how the world is coming through Philadelphia,” Wahl said.

(Check out “Article 13” at 9 p.m. Friday, April 8 at the Kimmel Center. Check video below)

The festival’s centerpiece in the Kimmel Center lobby — an interactive installation by set designer Mimi Lien, lighting designer Tyler Micoleau and sound designer Nick Kourtides — is a “kinetic, modernist” tree sculpture that will transform twice daily at 7 and 10 p.m., activated by live performance and accompanied by light and sound.

Tickets to individual performances start at $10, and many performances are free. Check www.kimmelcenter.org/pifa for the most up-to-date information for each show.
Multi-event ticket packages are also available and include the PIFA Sampler Pass (three shows), PIFA Immersion Pass (five shows) or the PIFA All-Access Pass. All of these passes come with added benefits, including access to exclusive events.
You can also call (215) 893-1999.

“It should be quite beautiful,” commented Wahl.
On April 6, prior to the grand opening performance, is the black tie PIFA Gala at 5:30 p.m. Following the gala dinner, former Carolina Chocolate Drops singer Rhiannon Giddens will perform on the Verizon Hall stage. For her final number, Giddens will be joined by French performance troupe Compagnie des Quidams, who perform their interactive “Fiers a Cheval” (Proud Horse) show.
So what is the grand opening event?
“Article 13” by France’s Carabosse Company and Mexico’s Teatro Linea de Sombra will encompass a 200-yard Delaware River waterfront space. Audience members wander through the performance, taking in stories, sights and sounds of people who have left their homes in search of a better world, including some participants from Philadelphia. It’s described as a memorial made of fire, sand, water, video, treating immigrants as human beings instead of statistics. Free performances will be at Penn’s Landing at 9 p.m. April 8-10.

Representing the area at PIFA are:
The Klip Collective. The video “Urban Abstraction: PIFA in Light” showcases the inclusiveness of the festival, and how everyday objects can be transformed by art. The final video product will be showcased throughout the city in taxicabs, on SEPTA trains, and “in other very visible and sometimes unexpected locations.” According to PIFA curator Jay Wahl, Klip Collective created the visuals of Longwood Gardens’ “Nightscape.”
Philadanco. “Global Artistry,” a world premiere, “speaks to Philadanco’s legacy of breaking barriers and building bridges across cultural divides, featuring original choreography by Than Dao (Vietnam), Francisco Gella (Philippines), David Brown (Jamaica) and Ray Mercer (USA).”
Jazz Bridge. Inspired by the thoughts, feelings and dreams of what Philadelphia middle-school-aged children believe the world will be like when they are adults, “Vision Song: Our Hearts, Our Voices, Our Future” is a collaboration between Jazz Bridge and Pew Fellow and jazz composer/bandleader/saxophonist Bobby Zankel.
In an email, Suzanne Cloud, executive director and co-founder of the Glenside-based Jazz Bridge, said of “Vision Song”: “The collaboration has lasted two years with the kids from Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, Jazz Bridge and the nonprofit Need in Deed. It’s been quite an experience encouraging this age group to vocalize their feelings through music about their future and climate change.”
Curtis Institute of Music. The Curtis Institute of Music and Brooklyn-based contemporary dance company Gallim Dance present “Attack Point, which will also feature the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia. Organ soloists perform works written for dance to an empty stage, allowing the audience to imagine the movement it was created for. Then the dancers will perform to an organ and choral work not made for dance.
The Clay Studio and The Center for Art in Wood. The two Philadelphia studios collaborated with artist Shay Church to create an interactive public sculpture in the Kimmel Center lobby. “Stand” is a “wet clay installation” forest, which visitors will contribute to, applying clay to different parts of the installation such as trees and animals.

So it’s not all going to be at the Kimmel Center?
Well, most of it is.
The center’s president and CEO, Anne Ewers, said in a press release: “It is a great privilege for us to be able to spread PIFA beyond the Kimmel Center campus to the pockets of this city that we all know and love. Art has the unique ability to bring people together and can’t wait to experience that throughout PIFA 2016.”
“Knitting Peace” is presented by Sweden’s Cirkus Cirkör at 8 p.m. April 8 and 9 at the Merriam Theater, which is overseen by the Kimmel Center. Also at the Merriam, which is a block over on South Broad Street from the Kimmel Center, is Diavolo’s two-part statement on the human body and the dangers of our environment — “Architecture in Motion.” Shows are at 8 p.m. April 13-14.
Also, there’s Manual Cinema’s “My Soul’s Shadow” cinematic shadow puppet installation based on the poetry of Federico García Lorca. Its performances are at The Barnes Foundation at 7 p.m. April 15-16. Wahl said that the performance involves cameras and live editing.
Then there’s the festival-closing Street Fair April 23 on six blocks of Broad Street, between Chestnut and South streets. “We close Broad Street for an entire afternoon, which is kind of amazing,” Wahl said.
What variety! What else should I see?
•“Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project” combines music, poetry, video monologues, and visuals created from the actual dreams of young veterans of color from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at 8 p.m. April 22 in the Perelman Theater. The creators have collaborated with Warrior Writers to include stories from Philadelphia veterans in the performance. Although they’re in limited supply, free tickets are available for vets and their families by emailing holdingitdown@kimmelcenter.org.
•Los Angeles dance troupe Antics explores the significance of sneakers in hip-hop with “Sneaker Suites” at 7:30 p.m. April 20 in the Perelman Theater. Attendees are encouraged to bring a pair of gently-worn sneakers or shoes to be donated to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that collects new and used shoes and distributes them to people in need.
•Australian theater company Polyglot Theatre brings “Paper Planet,” with a forest of cardboard trees inviting kids 3-8 and adults to fill the world with paper creations in the Hamilton Garden.
•The improvisational “Rivers of Sound” by Amir El Saffar features a 17-musician ensemble playing both Western instruments and traditional instruments from across north Africa, the Middle East and central Asia. Show time is 8 p.m. April 9 in the Perelman Theater.
•Comedian Kristina Wong takes on global poverty in “The Wong Street Journal” at 8 p.m. April 14-16 in the SEI Innovation Studio.
•Poet Edwin Torres integrates autobiographical poems alongside avant garde ones in the theatrical poetry slam “Mi Voca Su Voca” at 8 p.m. April 20-22 in the SEI Innovation Studio.
•The Kimmel Center and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program presents a one-day summit, “The City We Make,” on how visual and performing arts festivals throughout the world are creating new standards for how artists work in public space. It’s held April 10 in the Perelman Theater and is free to the public. Conversations are held at 3, 4:30 and 6 p.m. Reservations can be made at www.kimmelcenter.org.
Where is the Kimmel Center, anyway?
The address is 300 S. Broad St.


Philadelphia's Philadanco will perform at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. Courtesy photo

Philadelphia’s Philadanco will perform at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.
Courtesy photo

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