By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Erin Garber-Pearson has performed several times at Arts X at Bowling Green State University. The former teacher in the School of Art feels right at home at the festival that brings all the arts on campus together.
Her own work blends sculpture, video, storytelling and aerial acrobatics. That’s a perfect fit for Arts X with its mélange of art sales, exhibits, musical and theatrical performances, all colored by a certain level of tom foolery.
When Garber-Pearson and Kathleen Livingston perform at Arts X as Violet and Fortuna on Saturday, Dec.3, the acrobatic storytellers will take the work to new heights. The work-in-progress “Laces” involves two solo and two duet pieces. The duets require the performers to fly higher.
Working as a solo aerialist is challenging enough but working together requires a heightened sense of communication and trust, Garber-Pearson said. The duo has been working on the duets for three years. Arts X is “a good time to show” what they’ve been working on.
The works fits right in to the theme of Arts X 2016: “Volanti: Seeking Unknown Heights.” The event runs from 5 to 9 p.m. and is preceded at 4 p.m. by a holiday concert by the Bowling Green Philharmonia in Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center. Arts X is a free public event.
Violet and Fortuna will perform two 20-minute shows, one at 7 p.m. and another at 8 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre. They will be joined by dancers from Auxwerks in Ann Arbor.
Also BGSU faculty member Montana Miller will perform. According to the university, the former circus aerialist “will present a personal narrative of the truth behind the romantic image of flight based on her 25-year career as a professional aerial acrobat, from trapeze artist to high diver and now as a competitive, world record holding skydiver. She also will perform a piece to convey her journey through movement using aerial rings that she used to fly on 20 years ago.”
Violet and Fortuna’s “Laces” tells the 100-year-old story of house in Toledo.
Given Garber-Pearson’s work can’t fit it into one box, Arts X is ideal venue. “For me, it’s an opportunity to show my work to a diverse audience interested in the arts. I like it that it’s the whole campus… all the arts coming together for one event.”
Garber-Pearson’s involvement in circus goes back to her graduate school days. She was introduced to them by her partner. She would create large kinetic sculptures that could be worn and set on fire. Then she learned skills such as fire eating and stilt walking and started performing.
She choreographed “a giant sculptural dance and interaction between sculpture and performers” for a Day of the Dead procession. “It was one of the most exciting performances,” she said, because it was part of a ritualistic ceremony. “It was a unique opportunity for artists to facilitate grieving and group interaction. That’s one of the ways artists are so important in our culture.”
Garber-Pearson did circus work during summers throughout graduate school. She continued to pursue them when she started teaching in the School of Art’s foundations program.
She met Livingston when they were both working at the Ann Arbor Aviary.
Livingston started studying gymnastics when she was 5 and has also worked in circus. She teaches writing at Southern Michigan University. Garber-Pearson said she’s written most of the script for “Laces.”
Performing what will eventually be a 50-minute show requires a lot of practice and endurance. For this performance they have recruited AuxWerks, a dance company from Ann Arbor, to perform three transitional acts. Violet and Fortuna will present “the bones of the show.” The two 20-minute performances will feature different material that will eventually be melded into a whole.
Garber-Pearson and Livingston will present workshops leading up to Arts X. Garber-Pearson will present a workshop “Like me, like you” on building empathy by mimicking others’ movements on Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad Studio in the Wolfe Center for the Arts.
Livingston will present a workshop on “being present” while performing, Thursday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the dance studio in the Wolfe Center.
The performers will present a sampling of the circus arts on Friday from noon to 2 p.m. on the stage of the Donnell.