In the art world, the curator practices a type of exclusivity: Rather than drawing together disparate works, she winnows it down to a few select pieces that best meet her exhibition criteria. That’s a fine model; it’s just not how the Kellys roll. Husband-an-wife team Misa and Stephen Kelly are the founders of A Dance and Physical Theater Festival—ADaPT Fest for short — an annual gathering of performance artists that’s built on the principle of inclusion, rather than exclusion.
Now in its third year, ADaPT Fest had a two-night run at Center Stage Theater last weekend. Among the genres included were country line and tap dance, action painting and improvisation, physical theater, dance film, and Lindy hop. The artists came from California and New York, Japan and Slovenia. The program notes, like the lineup, were a rich pastiche of biographies and musings, guiding questions and artists’ manifestos.
All this may sound like a recipe for a creative train wreck: a collision, rather than cohesion, of forms. Yet ADaPT’s wide-open approach led instead to synergistic resonance.
How exactly that worked remains a mystery, though dancing may have something to do with it. Each program opened with a brief social-dance demonstration, after which audience members were invited onstage to learn the steps. Thus, many who would have remained passive witnesses took a risk and became active participants in an evening of theater.
Risk and action: These were the emergent themes of ADaPT 2013. From the gutsy, spontaneous improv sessions of female duo the Raving Jaynes to Misa Kelly and Joanna Nobbe’s vulnerable and riotously funny “Unzipped,” these artists bared themselves. A number of soloists commanded the stage, between them playing the full emotional scale from physical comedy to high drama. Group works touched on violence, celebration, sustainability, and creation. There were arabesques and in-turned feet, grunts and cackles, moments of great subtlety and plenty of full-throttle dancing.
Whether artists were rolling across fields of boulders, smearing paint with their toes, juggling umbrellas, or slithering across the stage on their stomachs, they appeared at once fully engaged in the action, and aware of their context. This, in the end, is the purpose of ADaPT: a chance for artists to come together across styles, regions, and even cultures without changing or narrowing their work to suit external demands.
ADaPT 2013 began in Brooklyn and will travel to Los Angeles as part of its tour, but it’s not too late to catch the action in Santa Barbara. The festival closes out with an evening of experimental, cross-genre art this weekend at the Pescadrome, where risk and action will once again abound and the line between audience and artist blurs.