Monday, May 13, 2013

High Art and Dancing on the Pole

 Strange Fruit @ Virginia Arts Festival 41, 2013

(Click on images to see larger.)

I admit that from the title of this post it would be easy to misconstrue that what Mrs. Bonney and I went to see at the Virginia Arts Festival the other night was more along the coarser lines of pole dancing. But that’s not the case, though I will also admit that there was dancing and poles were involved.
What we saw was a performance of the Melbourne, Australia-based performing arts company known as Strange Fruit. (It’s anyone guess whether they’re at all aware of the connection between their name and the haunting song about racism made famous by Billie Holiday.) 

Strange Fruit @ Virginia Arts Festival 01, 2013
Any description I make of Strange Fruit’s performance—this particular one is called “Swoon,” a fusion of theater, dance and circus—will not only fail to adequately describe it, but probably cheapen it in the process. But here goes:
Two women and two men, dressed, respectively, as colorful tarts and chimney sweeps, skip out into the outdoor performance space, accompanied by a soundtrack of percussive world music. They shimmy up flexible 5-meter poles, atop which they fasten themselves into roughly thigh-level braces that leave their upper bodies and sometimes their feet completely flexible to move in any direction they wish.
Strange Fruit 71 @ Virginia Arts Festival, 2013

For the next half hour they sway back and forth and around in circles on the poles to a soundtrack that ranges from symphonic to big band, from Sinatra to Mozart, from swing to opera and from rhythmic music to spoken word and jarringly discordant sounds. Their movement tells stories of whimsy and love and loss and love found again. Their style is so varied, gymnastic and yet so classically elegant at times that one could easily believe they were choreographed by Twyla Tharp. One moment they’ll be relating intensely to each other. The next they’ll be bending down low to flirt with viewers.
(See? Didn’t I tell you I could make something elegant and artful sound cheap and, well, not all that different from pole dancing?)
Strange Fruit will be appearing in June at the Ordway Centre in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in July at the Outside the Box festival in Boston. Their performance in Norfolk happened to be free. But even if you have to pay to see them elsewhere, it’ll be worth it.
Click here to see Strange Fruit’s show reel.

Strange Fruit 47 @ Virginia Arts Festival, 2013


  1. How cool does that sound! I would love to see them. Thanks for the introduction!

  2. Hello Chris,

    Laura Colby here. I am the director of Elsie Management. We are the company's artist representation in North America.

    As for their name - when the company was founded nearly 20 years ago, no they were not aware of the connotation that "strange fruit" had for us here in the States. And so, when we started touring the company to North America in 2006, we bent over backwards (all puns intended) to title the company "Australia's Strange Fruit" - with the intention to provide some context to their name.

    We do our best to ensure that the organizations presenting the company in North America always use this name - but more often than not, "Strange Fruit" gets used on its own. I see that was the case in all of the press in VA. (our apologies)

    In any case, I am delighted you enjoyed the show. We are thrilled that the Hampton Roads Social assembled a charming video. We think you might like it:

    Again, thank you for your interest in Australia's Strange Fruit. We are so glad you got to see them at the VA Arts Festival!

    best wishes, Laura Colby
    Director, Elsie Management

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