Can’t stop this

Among the offerings they’ll present at the upcoming Asheville Fringe Festival, The Future of Tradition Center for Folkloric Arts will give audiences a modern gypsy cabaret and the piece “Panty Raid Burlesque” — which is just what it sounds like.

“What would be really fringy would be to combine them,” muses Susan Collard, artistic director for both the festival and Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre.

Her comment echoes the spirited expansion of the second annual event, which has swelled to fill five venues.

But “fringe” entails more than circus-style titillation — it’s a highly personal concept that involves pushing limits and broadening one’s artistic horizons.

“What may be fringe for one person isn’t necessarily fringe for another,” Collard points out.

The idea for the festival came to Collard as a natural progression of her own interests. “Everything is entwined in visual arts,” she insists. “You can’t seem to separate any of the arts. I work with costumes. I’m a painter and I sculpt — that’s what I started out with. Dance was secondary.”

When dance became her primary focus, however, “all the sculpture I’d done supported that,” Collard continues.

As a dance instructor and choreographer, Collard found that her work consistently involved far more than just movement. “How can you take the theater out of it?” she says. “It’s dance, props, space — for some it’s even smell and taste.”

She stops and thinks. “Wow, we could even get the restaurants involved — they could do fringe food.”

While edgy cuisine may be an idea ahead of its time, local performance artist Jim Julien has a jump on the trend with his skit “Nothing but Flowers,” which he describes as “basically a piece that involves ordinary and extraordinary activities. And pudding.”

The artist developed “Flowers” and his other act, “The Accident,” to the music of The Talking Heads. “‘The Accident’ is kind of about a breakup of a couple, the train wreck of that relationship,” he explains.

“I see them as performance pieces, not dance per se,” continues Julien. “My experience working with Susan and Giles is that dance is really open-ended.”

Julien’s contribution to last year’s festival was to move around the perimeter of the Be Be Theatre over the course of three hours. Which meant his slow-motion performance was incorporated into all the other acts taking the stage during that time. In addition, he wore next to nothing, baring maximum skin to be painted by two artists as he inched around the room.

Other works this year include a fashion show, also set to fringe favorites The Talking Heads. “It’s a funny piece,” promises Collard, who designed the outfits. “The performers are wearing costumes that become physical handicaps.” In another piece, dancers wear barbed-wire tutus. “Need I say more?” she quips.

But “fringe” isn’t always synonymous with “risque.” “The Price of Gravity,” by Men’s Dance Festival choreographer Giles Collard, is “a little bit in contrast to regular dance,” he says.

Dancers normally wear the least amount of clothing possible, so as not to restrict movement. In addition, they generally “try to dance under the light to avoid being in shadow,” he explains.

“Gravity,” however, will be performed outdoors — so controlling the light is not an option. And forget about free-flowing costumes. In true fringe style, Collard has upended that norm: “Hopefully it will be cold,” he jokes. “We’ll be wearing lots of clothes.”

Fringe facts

The second Asheville Fringe Festival runs Friday, Jan. 16 through Sunday, Jan. 18. Tickets cost $10 per show ($8/students) except for shows at 35below, which are free. If you go to more than one show, present your first ticket stub at the door of the second show for a $2 discount. Two or more ticket stubs gets you a $3 discount (or $1 each time for students). Fringe Festival ticket stubs also earn you a $1 discount on admission to the North Carolina Dance Festival (Jan. 23-25). There’s no reserved seating for the Fringe Festival — tickets are available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call 254-2621 or visit

Future of Tradition (129 Roberts St., 232-2980)

• Onca (dance/cabaret) in “Accidental Circus,” “Panty Raid Burlesque” and “Trancing the Past/Present.”

Friday, Jan. 16: 8 and 10 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 17: 7 and 10 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 18: 7 p.m.

North Carolina Stage Company (33 Haywood St.; 350-9090)

• Jim Julien (performance art) in “Nothing but Flowers” and “The Accident”

• Illyom Ou Bourka (avant-garde Middle Eastern dance) in “Fun Does Not Exist”

• Plaeides Productions (theater) in “The Seven Deadly Dwarves”

• Jenni and Shawn Oldham (Butoh/moshpit) in “Please Tell Them for Us”

• Sharon Cooper (dance) in “One, Eight, eeeleven”
Friday, Jan. 16: 6 and 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 17: 6 and 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 18: 4 p.m.

Be Be Theatre (20 Commerce St.; 254-2621)

• Susan Collard (dance) in “Burning Down the House; It’s in Vogue”

• Mary LaBianca (installation art) in “Untitled 1, Figure, Action Sequence”

• Coco Palmer, Mike Lesser, Linda Azar and Melissa Bryson (dance) in “Ancient Mirror”

• Heather Dee (dance) in “Sans Soucis”

• Giles Collard in “The Price of Gravity” and “Drivethrough” (danced outdoors)

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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