5th Annual Kindling Arts Festival

McKay House and Emma Morrison (Photo: Tiffany Bessire)

Across the last four days of July and featuring 160 artists in 19 projects at 5 different venues the annual Kindling Arts Festival, Nashville’s “radically unique arts incubator,” continued its tradition of supporting local Nashville area artists. Founded in 2018, the festival has increasingly presented the tough and gritty yet beautiful and unique character of independent artistic expression in the Music City and this year’s event was no different. I was able to attend only two events this year, POWER: ON at OzArts on Saturday night and BLUR: AN AERIAL DANCE SHOWCASE on Sunday.

POWER: ON featured five dance works interspersed among three short cinematic features. During intermission, an additional amazing 3-part performance was given by dancers from the HUM Dance Collective. The evening opened with McKay House and Emma Morrison’s duet. At sight, the differences between House and Morrison are apparent, but in dance they were brilliantly in tune in an abstract expression of interiority, thought, and understanding. The entrance and exit through a small frame at a fast gate, perhaps a nod to Nijinsky’s jeté couru in Le Spectre de la rose, was as breathtaking. This was followed by McKay House’s phenomenal film Over and Over which sought to blend the “…symbolic, transcendent and surreal with the intricacies of the ordinary.” Opening in rural front yard, moving to the intimate interior of a living room and finally to a primal, sylvan and sapphic

Alexa Winer, Melissa Mangold and Celina Merrill (Photo: Tiffany Bessire)

world, the film depicts the intimacy of human relationships at their best…and worst. Fighting, tension, support, and connection reveal the sophistication of the human experience in relationships and the mutual history that can accrue there.

Examined experience in human relationships, its expression and even exaggeration, also finds a place in Cailin Manning’s film, Going Down, starring a charismatic Lenin Fernandez and charming Getfone Vongkhamchanh. The film explores the nuance of flirtatious tension in an elevator, idealizing the resulting daydream into dance. The epic live duet between Phylicia Roybal and Spencer Grady, A Meeting Place, matched an incredible athleticism with palpable tenderness in both dancers. Alexa Winer’s Sands, also featuring Melissa Mangold and Celina Merrill, was intimate and beautiful. The evening culminated with Becca Holback’s remarkable and intense solo Reprise. She was also featured in Clay Steakley’s remarkable project of poems, music, films and visual art entitled The Fire Cycle: Invocation which askes: “Let our procession be a dance From the outer dark to the inner, better dark.”

Hobeck’s incredible charisma, a fixture in Nashville dance, is countered by her striking height, strength and angular, but still often gentle movements. She balances the exact with the abstract in motion. Rather than conforming, she is the relentless individual.

Indeed, one of my favorite aspects of contemporary dance is the aesthetic of the individual. In traditional ballet the dancers conform to one idealized expression of beauty, but in contemporary dance beauty is manifest in the individual dancer—in their character, their charisma, line, movement, and expression.  Throughout the night every one of these dancers found their own place in the bouquet.

Similarly, in BLUR: AN AERIAL DANCE SHOWCASE, movement and individualism ruled the day. The performance featured dancers and aerialists Lauren Cougan, Leah Snyder, Satellite Dance, Bernadette Turnage, Megan Pentacost and Dominique Young and maintained a space somewhere between contemporary dance recital and top-shelf circus spectacular. It is described as “A short-form circus inspired by the Blurry Creatures Podcast, and their coverage on Conspiracy, Theories, Lore and Fairy Tales.” Narratives from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (“I’ve got a Golden Ticket!”) to the dreamscape, to the vampiric, found their place in this amazing showcase of talent. Special mention to the duet between the Ashley Breedlove and Daniel Pentacost on the ground. In the air, the entire cast was amazing in terms of poise, strength, grace, especially on the Lyra or aerial hoop.

The Kindling Arts festival enjoys a great list of sponsors and donors from the Nashville Area and has enjoyed an enviable growth over the last five years. It is a wonderful venue for the interdisciplinary talent of the Music City and I, for one, can’t wait to go next year. I will certainly make time to see more of it!  For more information, see www.kindlingarts.com


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