Editorial Review

Fringe Festival's 'garage/dances' lacks polish but yields fun

Audience members, please stay in your lanes. Please follow directions from your parking attendants. And, perhaps most important, please do not touch the dancers.

That's a sampling of the instructions hollered through bullhorns at the 75 or so people who spent a steamy Friday night on the roof of a parking garage in Adams Morgan. The attraction was "garage/dances," a 45-minute piece created by Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. Since year one, the Takoma Park company has been performing site-specific works during the Fringe Festival. Past venues include the stately Phillips Collection and the grand foyer of the National Building Museum.

A parking garage? Not so glamorous. Also: hotter. But the Building Museum, which has co-commissioned four pieces from the company, just closed an exhibition paying homage to the parking garage.

As a novelty, "garage/dances" is great fun. Dancers wear black and all manner of fluorescent orange accessories. But the uniqueness of site-specific dance works can also limit their artistic value. The performance looks like it was hastily created by a committee, and it was. Seven Dance Exchange regulars, 22 students in a summer institute, a Subaru Outback Sport and a few other vehicles perform the work in segments while the audience roams the garage in groups. (This event is not handicapped-accessible and is not appropriate for anyone who might have difficulty moving in extreme heat.) Short segments include a fight in the Subaru and a too-short duet in which Benjamin Wegman pulls his partner, Sarah Levitt, from the trunk of a Toyota.

The only segment that effectively connected the car-and-driver choreography with the unusual space was the finale. With the audience crowded onto a ramp below, dancers leaned over the roof's edge. A soundtrack mimicked music on a shifting radio dial, from "Moon River" to Beyoncé. Like synchronized swimmers, the dancers moved their arms to whatever music was playing, ending with a farewell wave.

-- Rebecca J. Ritzel