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Avant-Anna

Amongst a psychedelically patterned backdrop enter five dancing fembots. Their faces are brushed white with dense makeup, contrasting fervently with bright red lipstick, cobalt eyeshadow, and fluorescent, multicolored wigs. Four of them move and sway robotically to the beat in their fetish friendly getups, while the fifth swings lazily back and forth from the rafters [...]
Danny Hamen

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Amongst a psychedelically patterned backdrop enter five dancing fembots. Their faces are brushed white with dense makeup, contrasting fervently with bright red lipstick, cobalt eyeshadow, and fluorescent, multicolored wigs. Four of them move and sway robotically to the beat in their fetish friendly getups, while the fifth swings lazily back and forth from the rafters on a large aerial hoop, achieving a truly strange and titillating performance that seems almost too bizarre to be real life.

Anna and the Annadroids feels like an Andy Warhol fever dream—a surreal and visceral multi-media performance, combining dance, original music, and video production, fusing the avant-garde qualities of Dadaism with thoughtful post-modern criticism. While the show may leave you with a temporary LSD flashback and a handful of unanswered questions, Columbus-to-San Francisco transplant Anna Sullivan’s vision has more substance than just a few flashing neon lights and scantily clad dancing Annadroids.

“I think that sexuality is a natural part of our primal being—you should be able to explore that,” Sullivan said. “In our culture you can be sexy, but not too sexy—if you are then you’re a slut…so how does that work out?”

Sullivan explores these double standards, as well as a variety of other themes in her newest production Faux(pas)bia. Between 2005 and 2011, Anna and the Annadroids made their home in Columbus, benefitting from funding from Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Ohio Arts Council, staging countless performances around the town, from private parties to fetish friendly events like Trauma and Comfest.

“My time in Columbus really helped me develop something that would not only be artistically satisfying but satisfying for audiences. Dance tends to be just heavily academic—it doesn’t usually have that level of entertainment, so I want to try and combine those two…to make something that is deep and intelligent, but at the same to leave inspired and want to come back. I feel like being in Columbus really helped me formulate that idea.”

In 2011, Sullivan moved to San Francisco, wasting no time securing grants, putting on new performances, and building a Rolodex full of determined creatives to join her team, including a CCAD illustrator, Uko Smith, for her accompanied graphic novel, and her trusted technical director Alexi Alexaieff, who has helped conceptualize the delicate intertwining of dance, video production, and originally composed music.

“The different aspects of the multimedia have really come together for this production— the aerial dance is a huge component to adding to the entertainment quality of the piece, as well as the video environments. Having [Alexaieff] join as a collaborator has really upped the level of the productions for sure.”

Although her shows often posses jubilantly childlike imagery of dancing androids doing silly things in skimpy skirts, Faux(pas)bia, uses fear as the central thematic device. According to Sullivan, considering the tumultuous and fearful state of our country, the timing was just right.

“Fear and phobic situations are being pushed in our face constantly. You can’t even open your Facebook without being like, ‘Oh my God, are we all gonna die?’ It’s gotten so bad, so I feel like it’s really relevant. Faux(pas)bia resonates with me so deeply. You can choose to be afraid of something or not, and I think, for me, that I struggle with the not. I am admittedly afraid, so the challenge is figuring out how not to be. That’s why I am inspired to create art based on the mechanisms that I make up to cope with my fear.”

In a time where fear and anxiety are more prevalent than ever, we look to escapism as a means for positive outlook, to momentarily view the world through the lens of an artist.

“Performance art makes people feel less isolated. I feel like it’s our way of sharing how we are coping with the world, allowing the audience to join in.”

Faux(pas)bia will be debuting in Columbus March 30. For more information on ticket prices and show times, visit capa.com.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts & Culture

Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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