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Silesian Dance Theater
COMING BACK TO ROOTS (Proba powrotu do korzeni)

Saturday, September 4, 2004 - Monday, September 6, 2004
Sat., Sept. 4 at 7 PM Sun., Sept. 5 at 7 PM Monday, September 6 at 4:30 PM

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival
Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA
Tickets: $10 tickets at Live Arts Festival box office 215.413.1318 or online at 

Performances 30 minutes, followed by discussion with the artists, moderated by Sharon Friedler, chair, Swarthmore College Dance Program

American-Polish Dancer-Development Project

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival is one of four local partners who have sponsored the Polish artists in a special dancer-development project that culminates in these Festival performances. Coming Back to Roots will feature four Philadelphia dancers who are active on the local scene and who will be joined by a member of Jacek Luminski's Silesian Dance Theater. Alison D'Amato, Renée Robinson-Buzby, Kirsten Shahverdian, Christina Zani from Philadelphia, and Tomasz Wesolowski from Bytom, Poland, have worked with Mr. Luminski over a five-week period to create Coming Back to Roots. According to choreographer Luminski, "The daily practice of actors and dancers is based on physical liberation from our individual clichés, habits, muscular atrophy, and physical inexpressiveness." The original score is by Polish composer Wojciech Blecharz.

Jacek Luminski and the Silesian Dance Theater

Jacek Luminski graduated from the Frederic Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and for six years developed his acting and theater skills as part of the capital's Jewish Theatre and with other troupes throughout Poland. In 1991 he founded the Silesian Dance Theatre in Bytom, in the depressed industrial region of Silesia. It was Poland's first professional contemporary dance company. It was as though an American choreographer had launched his cutting-edge dance group in Gary, Indiana, or Flint, Michigan.

Now widely regarded as the father of Polish modern dance, Luminski has developed a unique dance style that has evolved through his twenty years of research on Polish folklore and the folk traditions of Polish Jewry. A production may reflect, for example, a certain sense of space, unique to communities in Podhale that is related to their traditional feeling of freedom and independence drawing upon the complex rhythms of their music and the power of open-throat singing. By the same token, an analysis of Jewish songs, legends, superstitions, customs, rituals, and dance forms - the importance of the palm of the hand, pelvis, chest, and spine - have also deeply influenced the style and technique of the Silesian Dance Theatre. The dancers float in space, connecting internal and external worlds, and going beyond them with the use of technical skills enriched with psychophysical tools and mental power reflecting the Hassidic tradition of dance as a conversation with God.

Luminski's unique concept of dance, with its forward-looking innovation rooted in folk traditions, has earned him an international reputation. In 1995 New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff wrote: "A distinct signature emerges from Mr. Luminski's approach to both form and content. The dancers tear into space with ferocious power and whiplash speed, qualities that spring from a kinetic force in the choreographer's idiom. His works are intense, obsessive in their picture of abstract emotions." From Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1996, Adrienne Sichel wrote in The Star: "Luminski and his Silesian Dance Theatre are major role models. His demanding technique and sweeping choreographies are distillations of Polish and Jewish folklore elements. A physical breadth of movement is fused with an intrinsically musical fluidity and searing spirituality. On the surface, Luminski's dances and eight dancers are smoothly sophisticated but, as he unveils the soul, capillaries of distress, of disquiet, sporadically surface." And Miriam Seidel wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2001: "This is a work with sweep and heart that confirms Luminski's engagement with rich, involving theatrical language."

Jacek Luminski also serves as artistic director of the Bytom International Dance Conference and Performance Festival. This annual two-week-long convocation of students, teachers, dancers, and dance companies from around the world has become one of the largest and most influential gatherings in Central Europe that focuses on contemporary dance. Luminski has also been responsible for upgrading pedagogic standards for college-level dance in Poland. Like his choreography, Luminski's teaching is known for its highly kinetic and spatially generous approach to contemporary dance. He is currently developing several initiatives for dancer development and choreographic exchange between Poland and other countries in the European Union, as well as a platform for Polish dance that will be presented in New York City in future seasons. Luminski was the Lang Visiting Lecturer at Swarthmore College in 2001.

Festival Information

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival will run in tandem with the Philly Fringe, September 3-18, 2004. The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe were originally founded in 1997 as the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. This year the two programming segments of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival are repositioned as two separate, distinct, concurrent festivals. The Live Arts Festival features selected cutting-edge, boundary-breaking performing arts events, created by some of the most renowned contemporary artists from our region and around the world. The Philly Fringe - which provides opportunities for any artist, independent of a selection process, to self-produce his or her work - represents the true international "Fringe" movement.

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