Live Arts finds new residency

Northern Liberties’ Area 919 will be a permanent artist’s residency.

Northern Liberties’ Area 919 will be a permanent artist’s residency.

Last Thursday, the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival launched its year-round residency program. The event, which featured three of the program’s five resident artists, took place at the festival’s newly purchased studio space at Area 919 on North Fifth Street.

As guests sipped beer and nibbled gourmet cheese and crackers, the evening presentations began with a black and white video montage of the Subcircle dance troupe’s Jorge and Niki Consineau performing a modern dance duet, “Always Sleeping.”

The five-minute clip, which was projected on the wall of the studio space, featured the couple dressed in tuxedos, dancing with each other from two separate bathrooms to the sounds of a soft guitar and vocals of a male artist. At times, the performers seem to be sparring with each other – one moment, playfully tossing toilet paper to each other and slamming the bathroom doors as though in a fit of anger the next.

In one movement, Niki Consineau appeared to step out of the surreal element of the bathroom and into the festival’s studio space where she danced in street clothes. This piece illustrates the kind of performance art the program plans to feature in its first year.

Next up was a dramatic monologue by Thaddeus Phillips. As the lights went down, audience members could hear Phillips’ voice over the loudspeaker.

“Hi, I’m Thaddeus with Lucidity Suitcase,” he said, “and we haven’t started working on anything.”

When the lights came back, Phillips was sitting at a desk with his computer. He pulled out an origami paper boat and said, “There’s going to be boat,” to much laughter from the audience.

Phillips used his boat as a bridge into a piece titled “Whale Optics,” a video presentation that explores the history of whale songs and their translations, set against a backdrop of marine photography. But Phillips seemed to be trying to make a larger point during his 10-minute monologue: how humans have adapted our lines of communication – the Internet, cable television and the telegraph – to the migratory movements of whales, including the installation of fiber optic cables on the ocean floor aligned to the whales’ movements.

The evening concluded with “Score of the Forgotten Dance,” a modern dance choreographed by Kathryn Tebordo of Workshop for Potential Movement. “Score of the Forgotten Dance” features 2007 Temple alumnus Brandon Beston, who worked with Tebordo at the Painted Bride Art Center.

Tebordo told the audience they should think of the dance “as a play where each dancer is a character but with a narrowing of consciousness.”

The first of the three characters is a soloist who is caught between remembering a dance and encountering the forgotten parts. The second role is an authentic demonstration of the improviser who inhabits the core values of “the dancer’s body” by acknowledging instances of a dance and turning them into fact. The third, Beston’s role, is the “micro-mover,” who studies the movements as an empathetic body.

“You know, [it’s] how you twitch from something you’ve seen, even if it hasn’t happened to you,” Tebordo said. She is further exploring the technique of micro movement – examining how small a movement can still be considered dance and still embody the movement – something she’s been studying since 2006.

Pia Agrewal, program director for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, said the group purchased its new studio space last May and moved in a month later.

Production Director Nick Stuccio said he believes the new space will bring the festival, and its work, closer to the community.

“We wanted more of a year-round presence,” Stuccio said. “With the artist in residency program and second Thursdays series, the festival will now offer artists the chance to connect with the community and audiences.”

The residency program will invite five to seven artists annually to show 20 minutes of work each. The program also provides free workspace in the studio, can extend artists’ development time and gives the artists the opportunity for early audience feedback. And judging from the inaugural event, it seems to be off to a good start.

“I’m surprised by the turnout,” Niki Consineau said, “and the fact that [the audience members] are able to view things early-on may promote people to come see the final product.”

Lauren Williams can be reached at

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