Spoon-bending TV psychic Uri Geller believes there's a strange and powerful phenomenon around the numbers 11-11, appearing as often as they do on significant dates in history or on his airplane boarding pass or on the clock of his microwave oven just as he turns to look. We're not superstitious, but we're inclined to think he's on to something. Let's look at the facts, shall we?
Atlanta's dance community is in the midst of a powerful upsurge, and it just so "happens" that the ladies at newbie arts org the Lucky Penny have planned a sprawling event at the Arts Exchange on 11.11.11. The Spectacular! Spectacular! goes beyond just being a fun way to sample Atlanta's dance scene with performances, adding food and drink, visual arts, readings, installations, live music, and a dance party. We think it's emblematic of what's so special about Atlanta's dance scene in general: It's independently built from the ground up, collaborative, aspirational, multi-disciplinary, community-building, and has a fresh, scrappy energy. There's lots of things to love about this weekend's event, but to mark the occasion and in honor of Geller, we've chosen 11. In no particular order:
OK, it's sort of weird to list "Dance performances" as a single highlight, since there will be lots of them, and they'll be all around the Arts Exchange on 11.11.11: on stage, in the hallways, outside and even on top of the Good Food Truck. But we have room for 11 things on our list, not 111. Truth is we're looking forward to taking a peek at all the dance work from Atlanta-based artists such as Helen Hale, Alisa Mittin, Maryn Whitmore, and T. Lang, and from visitors like Portland's Tahni Holt.
THE BACK POCKETS (Fri., 10 p.m.)
This band's shows are, uh, a little hard to describe so we'll rely on the words of an expert. "The room seemed poised for something epic," wrote CL's music critic Chad Radford after witnessing a Back Pockets performance at MINT Gallery last year. "The band fired up and kids were packed in like sardines losing their minds and dancing their asses off." And it wasn't even 11/11 yet.
GOOD FOOD TRUCK AND SUGAR-COATED RADICAL
Whenever artists and art-lovers gather in Atlanta, the Good Food Truck isn't far behind. That's because this little business is enormously supportive of Atlanta's arts community. The truck, CL's 2011 Critics Pick for Best Food Truck, will host dance performances on its roof for your enjoyment while you chow down on that savory waffle cone or apple-slaw poodle dog. Sweet treats from the sugar artists at Sugar-Coated Radical will also be on hand.
Throughout the evening, a series of dance films will be screening in Atlanta's mobile dance venue, the Dance Truck, parked in front of the Arts Exchange, featuring films by Neil Fried, Nicole Livieratos, Greg Catellier, Natalie Metzger, D. Patton White, John Bacone, Adam Weinert, Onur Topal Sumer, Kingsley Irons, and more.
PERFORMANCE ART POWERHOUSE JILL SIGMAN (Tea & Talk, Fri., Nov. 11, 6 p.m.; Workshop, Sat., Nov. 12, 11:30 a.m..-3:30 p.m.)
It's something of a coup that 11.11.11's organizers have gotten a major art-world figure like Jill Sigman to swoop in for the event. The New York Times described the performance artist's "dark, strange imagination" as "a theatrical phenomenon unto itself." Word. We're swooning over the fact that 11.11.11 kicks off with Jill friggin' Sigman serving hot tea and talking about her work ... on the back of a truck. Only in Atlanta, kids, only in Atlanta.
DANCE PARTY (Fri., Nov. 11, 11:30 p.m.)
After taking in so many great performances, chances are you'll want to try some moves yourself. You can usually find DJ Santiago Páramo around town at the Drunken Unicorn, Apache Cafe, and the Masquerade. He'll cap off the evening by spinning his blend of world music charged with groove, funk, rock, and salsa.
THE ARTS EXCHANGE
The Arts Exchange is a fascinating building even when there's not a huge party going on inside it. The former school on Kalb Street not far from the intersection of Boulevard and Glenwood is a "multicultural, multidisciplinary, and intergenerational cultural center" and has been for many years. We'll put it this way: Event organizers didn't have to bring in a gold disco ball to hang above the beautifully decaying old theater space because, yep, the Arts Exchange already has one.
LIVE ART CRITICISM
The art-smarties at the local online arts magazine BurnAway will provide live art criticism as a performance installation. As the critics are presented with various short dance performances and works of visual art, they'll clack away at vintage typewriters to produce quick one-page critiques, which will then be hung on the walls. It sounds fascinating, but we wonder: Who will evaluate their work?
Eleven bucks gets you a full evening of dance performances, tea with Jill Sigman, a Back Pockets concert, avant-garde dance films, a DJ'ed dance party, and a cool paper wristband. The money goes to fund the event and to help make sure there are more like it in the future. Good deal.
EVENT ORGANIZERS BLAKE BECKHAM AND MALINA RODRIGUEZ
Dancer/choreographer Blake Beckham and artistic director Malina Rodriguez are the masterminds behind 11.11.11 and many of the other cool events that keep Atlanta's dance scene shaking. Rodriguez's Dance Truck literally mobilizes Atlanta's dance community by presenting work on the back of a flatbed truck, and the duo's last project PLOT, an elaborate evening-length dance work at the Goat Farm, captivated viewers with its gorgeous and bleak vision of growth and decay. More than simply trying to make a name for themselves or their own work, they're devoted to creating opportunities and community in the Atlanta arts scene. Eleven cheers for that.
THERE'S STUFF ON 11.12, TOO
11.11.11 will be celebratory and action-packed, but the evening leads up to a quieter, though no less significant day of artists' talks, master classes, and workshops on 11.12.11. The hope for both days, organizers say, is to create a space for valuable exchanges, between Atlanta-based and visiting artists, between dance and visual artists, and between artists and the public.