Good Ol’ Fun with JUNK’s American Standard

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by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal

I’ve often felt that Brian Sanders JUNK is not for the faint at heart and that I’d hate to be a parent of one of his dancers with all the climbing and plunging and swinging from ropes they’re expected to do. On this count and many others, Junk’s thirteenth production for the Fringe, American Standard, did not disappoint.

Sanders and crew turned the otherwise humble Christian St. studio into a barnyard fantasy worthy of the very best chuck wagon dinner (and with Chef Alex Garfinkel catering several of the shows, the rustic inspired fare was in a league of its own). The performance space had been transformed into a multi-level barn, complete with hay bales and cowhides and the audience sat in stadium-style seating complete with—you guessed it—more hay and a basket of burlap blankets to cut down on the itch factor.

JUNK premiered several pieces from American Standard at the Koresh Come Together Festival this past July, including a solo by company favorite Teddy Fatscher, which paired the athletic dancer with a large, hide-covered sawhorse for a slow motion, somehow erotic display of gymnastic prowess. By the Fringe, the piece had become a trio, with dancers vaulting over sawhorses on different levels of the stage.

Another noteworthy expansion was a quartet that started off as a wacky romp, with dancers hooking thumbs through their belt loops and trotting across the stage before launching into a full on explosion of carefully coordinated flips. To see it with six dancers was like watching a juggler with six balls, only here the balls are humans and if one of them drops, they’re going to get run over by the oncoming traffic of perfectly timed aerial work.

American Standard was fast paced and well balanced, with slow, sensual duets giving way to funny takes on hoedown favorites (a little soft shoe clogging on a small board held aloft by other dancers, for example, or a do-si-do performed with dancers sitting on each other’s shoulders). The one piece that didn’t quite take off for me was the rubber booted duet performed by Tunai Jones and Kelly Trevlyn; the fast footwork was fun to watch but the dancers seemed uncertain of their own characters—was it comedy or not?

That said, I was impressed, as I am every time I see JUNK perform, by the sheer strength and physicality of the dancers. Forget about those trendy barre workouts: we all need the JUNK regime. These versatile dancers can climb, swing, and even play a rather death defying version of cat’s cradle with their own bodies, resulting in a rather infectious, ‘merican cabaret.

About Kat Richter

Kat Richter is a freelance writer and professor of both dance and cultural anthropology. She is also the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, Philadelphia's premiere all-female tap company. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher and The Journal of Research in Dance Education.

As a professional dancer, Richter began her apprenticeship with the New Jersey Tap Ensemble at the age of 9 and was promoted to Principal Dancer while still in high school. In 2005, she received a scholarship to Oxford University and returned to the UK in 2009. She holds a BA in Dance and History from Goucher College and an MA in Dance Anthropology from Roehampton University. A proud Philadelphia transplant, she blogs at www.fieldworkinstilettos.com

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