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Fringe Day Eight: '#FolkloreLatino,' 'Temporary Actors,' and Cobbs Hill Consort

Sep 22, 2020

"#FolkloreLatino"

At only 30 minutes, the cultural showcase "#FolkloreLatino," presented by Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester, is a full-hearted, albeit brief respite from what has been a particularly tragic time locally, nationally, and throughout the world.

IMAGE PROVIDED BY KEYBANK ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL

Host Evelyn D'Agostino introduces the audience to several traditional Latin American folk dances from Mexico and her native Panama. A celebration of movement and music, "#FolkloreLatino" features such intriguing performances as the Panamanian "Diablico Sucio," performed by Mario D’Agostino — complete with red-and-black costume, fantastical animal and devil masks, and castanets.

Another masked dance from Panama, called "Diablo de Espejo," as performed by Evelyn, Mario, and Valentina D'Agostino, has a delightfully enigmatic sensibility.

As a whole, the performances in "#FolkloreLatino" are brimming with pride and authenticity, and elaborate and colorful costumes only add to the experience. In this time of quarantine, the presentation by Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester is one of the better ways to experience Latin American arts & culture while being stuck at home.

"#FolkloreLatino" is available for free on demand, via rochesterfringe.com, through September 26. For more information on Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester, visit gcler.org and facebook.com/GCLERFolklore. — Daniel J. Kushner

"Temporary Actors"

An hour-long performance art exhibition created by Chinese artist Yufei Chen, "Temporary Actors" consists of four acts in which Chen and his assistant Long Zhun use movement and props to dramatize observations about everyday life. At least that's what I read the show is about, because in practice I genuinely couldn't decipher what message was intended.

The setting is a simple, bare black stage with a taped yellow square at the center. The majority of the performance is conducted in silence. Once or twice the camera pans slightly to reveal glimpses of an audience observing the action happening on stage.

In the first of the acts, "Untouchable," Chen and Zhun move around the space with long white poles balanced between them, held by various parts of their bodies; sometimes they use their heads so they can each look through the poles, and at other times they use their chests. At a certain point, the poles are tipped to spill out what looks like bird seed or corn. It’s hard to tell from the distance between the camera and the performers.

Yufei Chen performing in "Temporary Actors."
Credit PROVIDED BY KEYBANK ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL

In "Dots, Lines, Surfaces," Chen carefully measures several thick lines of flour out across the stage, then rolls through them while wrapping himself up in the tape measure he’d used to create the lines.

"Control Your Body" is the first of the acts to have dialogue (spoken in Chinese, English subtitles are available to turn on, manually) and music. Chen and Zhun use roller blades and cut large pieces from a white table cloth that are then draped across a dress form. Zhun presents a flower to the dress form. From the dialogue, I pieced together that there is some commentary about man’s relationship to technology.

The final act is "Exhaust Beauty," which finds the two performers putting on boxing gloves made of what looked like cotton balls, but later were referred to as flower petals. They engage in a bout, as the gloves gradually disintegrate and shed their layers around the stage. Eventually the two men collapse, exhausted "by time."

A bit of reading tells me that Chen’s work explores a variety of topics, particularly surrounding China’s rapid development and modernization. It's entirely possible (even likely) I lack the proper context for knowledge of China's political, social, and cultural landscape to understand the messages the artist wished to be taken from his art.

But even if you’re not getting the message a show is putting down, there's an energy that comes from being in the room that can sometimes carry you through whatever nuance you’re missing. That energy is unfortunately lacking when watching a video of that performance, automatically adding a barrier to my enjoyment.

It's also very possible that 2020 and quarantine life has left me unable to process abstract avant-garde art. I’d have welcomed some sort of talkback or even an artist statement, something concrete to help me latch onto what I was watching. But this is a case where I have to just admit I didn't get it. Of course, that doesn't mean you won't. I don't want to discourage anyone from seeing Chen's work; you may very well get more from it than I did.

"Temporary Actors" is currently available on demand at rochesterfringe.com and can be viewed through the end of the festival. All ages. Free. — Adam Lubitow

Cobbs Hill Consort

The Rochester-based quartet Cobbs Hill Consort is notable, not only for its incorporation of Native American flute, but also because the ensemble was formed in 2013 as a result of a Rochester Fringe Festival performance given to promote the Finger Lakes Flute Circle, a group founded by flutist Dr. Jefferson Svengsouk.

Jefferson Svengsouk of Cobbs Hill Consort.
Credit PROVIDED BY KEYBANK ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL

Due to the constrictions of physical distancing, the Cobbs Hill Consort's concert at this year's Rochester Fringe is actually a solo performance by Svengsouk, who is also a hospice and palliative care physician at UR Medicine.

For him, this online performance was an opportunity to share what he referred to as "therapeutic music." For the audience, it was a different kind of concert experience, and not just because it's completely virtual. Because the music is intended "for relaxation, for respite, for healing, for peace," the flutist says, he specifically encourages virtual audience members to fall asleep while listening, calling it "the greatest compliment."

The music itself is contemplative and psychologically restorative. Svengsouk employs flutes of various ranges, timbres, and resonance — I counted 12 different instruments in all. While the music is undeniably peaceful, there is also an underlying sadness, a sense of mourning, in it. Svengsouk’s flutes simultaneously sound resigned and resolute.

The 65-minute concert — improvised and performed almost entirely without accompaniment — is ideal for meditation, rest, or simply mental decompression at the end of a long day. Those wishing to hear more from Svengsouk would do well to check out his solo album, "Peaceful Journey."

Svengsouk’s Cobbs Hill Consort performance is available on demand, for free, at rochesterfringe.com through September 26. cobbshillconsort.com; jefferson.me.

Daniel J. Kushner