From safe bets to daring debuts, preview the hottest theater and dance of the solar season | Arts Feature | Indy Week
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From safe bets to daring debuts, preview the hottest theater and dance of the solar season 

Black Irish Contemporary Hip Hop Company: Couture

Photo courtesy of Ronald West

Black Irish Contemporary Hip Hop Company: Couture

There's no shortage of conventional theater lined up for the solar season.

A Few Good Men (Kennedy Theatre, June 17–28, www.theatreraleigh.com) and the rarely-mounted Dreamgirls (July 8–26) are on Theatre Raleigh's agenda. NCSU TheatreFest (Thompson Hall, May 28–June 28, www.ncsu.edu/theatre) concludes with the thriller Wait Until Dark, and elsewhere in Raleigh, there's Shakespearean mystery Equivocation (Theatre in the Park, June 5–21, www.theatreinthepark.com). North Carolina Theatre offers Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, July 21–26, www.nctheatre.com), and even the unconventional comes in conventionally staged form when Tiny Engine Theatre performs Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche (Common Ground Theatre, July 23–Aug. 2, www.tinyenginetheatre.com).

But this summer also departs from the norm in several ways. For five shows, you won't just need a ticket. Sunblock, shades and hydration are equally crucial for the outdoor versions of Seed Art Share's A Midsummer Night's Dream (see page 31), Bare Theatre's Macbeth (Stephenson Amphitheatre, June 19­–27; Forest Theatre, July 24­–Aug. 1, www.baretheatre.org) and Paperhand Puppet Intervention's still-nameless annual pageant (Forest Theatre, Aug. 7–Sept. 7; North Carolina Museum of Art, Sept. 11–13, www.paperhand.org). Add sensible shoes for Burning Coal Theatre Company's walking tour, Oakwood Lives (see page 39)—and a cell phone for Seed Art Share's other outdoor project, Moving Pieces:2 (Trinity Gallery, First Fridays June–September, www.seedraleigh.org), a mobile play in Raleigh's historic Mordecai neighborhood.

"The characters text each other," producer Renee Wimberley says of her inventive theater piece, which unfolds on the streets and in restaurants, businesses and cars. "If you want to know what's happening, you have to read them. And you can text the characters back, if you want."

Though the work is scripted, the urban environment the audience walks through keeps an element of randomness in each show. "It might be raining. A band might be setting up next to you," Wimberley says. "It's happened. People not involved in the show sit next to us in bars. It keeps the actors totally on their toes."

Then there's a triptych of one-acts where you can count the cast on one hand—or, actually, one finger. Burning Coal has used the summer to experiment before—remember 2012's Politheatrics Festival of political theater? This year, artistic director Jerome Davis brings three one-person dramas into rotating repertory during the month of June: Simon Stephens' Sea Wall, Philip Ridley's Dark Vanilla Jungle and Conor McPherson's Rum and Vodka (The Murphey School Auditorium, June 11–28, www.burningcoal.org).

"In each play a person has experienced disappointment in something or someone they'd placed a lot of trust in: another person, human kind, or themselves," says Davis. "But the disappointment is so extreme that it's untethered them from everything they know and believe. They're looking for solid ground. The question is, will they find it, and where will it come from?"

Three shows exploring different experimental aesthetics in the same weekend: That's quite a way to put an exclamation point on local dance the week before the American Dance Festivalf begins (various Durham venues, June 11–July 25, www.americandancefestival.org). Since we'll have plenty to say about ADF in a couple of weeks, let's look at the rest of the regional landscape now.

Black Irish Contemporary Hip Hop Company's Ronald West has Couture on his mind (Cary Theater, June 6–7, www.iamblackirish.com)—how fashion, fabric and design can not only identify and change, but also obscure and erase the ways we show up in the world. In designing what he calls "wearable murals, deconstructive dresses, accessories of extreme scale and enhanced joint-recognition costumes" for his dancers, West takes audiences on a journey from the playful to the pointed over his new work's four sections. After "Color Blocking" erases all unclothed body parts ("laundry brought to life," West chuckles), "Black and White" crystallizes moments of graphic racial violence. Improbably, it does so through floral designs and beadwork in slow-motion studies. See to believe. Ian O'Hare provides the music; the poetry's by Anthony Sanders/Do the Math.

Visual artist Erin Oliver asked Killian Manning/No Forwarding Address to create a dance (The Carrack Modern Art, June 5–6, www.thecarrack.org) to open her art show, Double Capture. "I wanted to engage space in a much more physical way. With Killian's work, I had similar ideas of how we could activate the space."

"Erin thinks differently about paper, and that challenged us to do the same," Manning says. "It's musical. It's a mode of transportation, sliding under our feet and hands; it's the glue that makes duets happen. Our costumes are shredded like paper."

Manning has performed for Carrack exhibits before, so she knows the space, and when what's written down are passages from Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou and Pablo Picasso, paper can take you places you haven't imagined.

We're all floating, Renay Aumiller fears. "When your feet aren't on the ground, you are not in control," she says of Blood Moon (Cordoba Center for the Arts, June 5–7, www.renayaumillerdances.com), a new aerial dance work that focuses on powerlessness and the choices that confront us in an oppressive environment. The current political atmosphere "can make us feel we're not in control of our own fate, and that our choices are being taken," Aumiller says.

Andrew Munro's pulley system, which suspends the dancers, exaggerates the unequal relationship between the manipulator and manipulated. "If you're off about an inch that really shifts the action," Aumiller notes. "The fact is, you're partnering with someone whose kinetic impact upon you is exponentially disproportionate." The political and interpersonal metaphors of this unfold next weekend.

And finally, Culture Mill hosts Being Two (Haw River Ballroom, June 13, www.culturemill.org), a day-long retreat of voice and body classes—perfect for gearing up for a long, hot summer of contemporary dance.

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