Phil Lederer, Phill@srqmediagroup.coml
Running the gamut from the traditional to the outlandish, the performers for the Ringling International Arts Festival this year represent an elite but very eclectic group, bound simply by their skill and dedication to the arts. Bringing more than 100 performers from around the globe, including Central and South America, the Middle East, Europe and Great Britain, RIAF has become an annual highlight. Associate Director of Performance Programs Dwight Currie took the stage Wednesday night at the Historic Asolo Theater to give the rundown for this year’s festival. Featuring 30 productions from seven different performance art groups in fewer than four days, this year’s festival looks to be a veritable whirlwind of artistic energy. “It has to be diverse,” said Currie to suggestions that perhaps the RIAF should pick a theme or motif to lend focus. “If you’ve got a problem with your carrot cake touching your mac ’n’ cheese, a festival’s probably not for you.” Three musical performances will be featured, with two playing opening night: The inspirational Duo Amal and The Pedrito Martinez Group. Duo Amal includes two talented pianists, one from Israel and the other from Palestine, performing classical duets as well as compositions from their respective homelands. The Pedrito Martinez Group of Rumba virtuosi hails from Cuba, Venezuela and Peru, with a genre-bending, high-energy performance. The Vijay Iyer Trio, a renowned jazz ensemble named for its prodigal pianist, rounds out the musical contributions. For lovers of dance, there will also be two dance troupes performing throughout the festival. Keigwin and Company, led by Artistic Director Larry Keigwin and known for dramatic and contemporary style, bring a more traditional modern dance and Tangram, the husband and wife juggler/ballerina pairing, pushes boundaries with a narrative-driven performance melding juggling, physical theater and new circus. Rounding out the line-up are two productions that defy categorization. One, a Bunraku puppet show entitled The Table, sees three puppeteers from Great Britain taking control of a single puppet named Moses as he weathers an existential crisis. The second, entitled The Intergalactic Nemesis, is a sci-fi stage adventure inspired by old-timey radio productions and the graphic novel aesthetic. Featuring three actors, a Foley artist for sound effects and a keyboardist live-composing the soundtrack, the show presents an alien invasion like no other. Adding a fourth venue for performance this year, the Mildred Sainer Pavilion, and introducing new Gatehouse Gatherings to promote conversation and debate among visitors, Currie hopes this year’s RIAF will be a community event to talk about long after it’s gone. “I’ve come to think of RIAF as a sequel to The Wizard of Oz,” said Currie in reference to the audience he sees in Sarasota. “We’re looking for the curious, we’re looking for the compassionate and the courageous and we want to know what you think.”
Original article published February 28th by SRQDaily.