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The Ringling goes eclectic for Art of Performance series

Sarasota Herald-Tribune 10/22/2022 Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

When they ended the Ringling International Arts Festival in 2017, Ringling Museum leaders pledged to refocus their efforts to present an eclectic array of artists from around the world throughout the year rather than over one busy weekend.

COVID has interrupted many of the programs planned by the Art of Performance series, but it returns this year with performances ranging from a shadow puppet show about a Mexican wrestler to an original play about older residents’ views on sex.

“We have 11 different artist companies. That seems like a nice size for me, in terms of what we can do with our resources,” said Elizabeth Doud, the Currie-Kohlman Curator of Performance Programs for the museum.

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The series launched earlier this month in the historic Circus Museum with a performance of “Lifted” by the British female acrobatic troupe Mimbre and a salsa party in the museum courtyard. It continues Oct. 28-29 with Kyle Abraham’s “An Untitled Love,” a dance piece built around the music of R&B musician D’Angelo.

Most of the season’s performances will be presented in the Historic Asolo Theater, which is being rebranded as the HAT (the nickname long used by staff), in part to reduce confusion among patrons between that space and the Asolo Repertory Theatre in the nearby FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

Doud said her selections are based on “relationships with artists, regional influences and what else is being presented in the area. It’s important for us to occupy a niche that’s not being occupied.” Many of the artists also take part in conversations with patrons and do master classes with school groups.

“That community engagement is a huge part of the work I’ve done in my life,” she said. “Maybe we’re not serving 1,400 audience members a night, but the 14 students who went to a jazz clinic with one artist that changed their lives, that’s important.”

Doud said she also has been working to diversify the audience for the Art of Performance with Spanish-language theater offerings and having artists from Latin America and the Caribbean. “That has drawn an audience for us that wasn’t particularly represented in our theater programs,” Doud said.

“Lupita’s Revenge,” for example, is a shadow puppet vengeance play about El Guapo, Mexico City’s most decorated luchador (or Lucha Libre wrestler) and his daughter, Lupita. Presented Nov. 10-12, it was created by a group of musicians and visual artists from Athens, Georgia.

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A scene from “Lupita’s Revenge,” a shadow puppetry show, that will be presented as part of The Ringling’s Art of Performance Series. © COURTESY PHOTO A scene from “Lupita’s Revenge,” a shadow puppetry show, that will be presented as part of The Ringling’s Art of Performance Series.

During the pandemic, the museum turned over its performance space to several artists in residence, including Joseph Keckler, an opera singer and trained musician, who filmed a short movie in the HAT. “He does this extraordinary fusion of storytelling like a rock band, millennial absurdist stand-up comedy. It’s really incredible.” He will perform Jan. 27-28.

Doud also is particularly excited about the season’s closing production, “All the Sex I’ve Ever Had” (April 20-23) by Mammalian Diving Reflex. The Toronto-based group will work with six older adults from the Sarasota-Manatee area who will discuss love and sexuality. Their thoughts will become a script that those participants will perform.

The troupe will be looking for people 65 and over “who are willing to engage with the company in a storytelling workshop where they tell the lead artists about all the sex they’ve ever had,” Doud said.

The group’s name comes from a reflex in mammals that increases their chances of survival when plunged into a cold water environment.

“It’s obviously for adult audiences, but it can be extremely moving and often sad,” she said. “The artists use these kind of methodologies for intergenerational understanding. One of the big themes of their work is how do you get younger people and older people to talk to each other?”

Doud said she saw a Chicago production and “it was just disarming, lovely and a lot of vulnerability in it.”

The season also includes:

Companhia Urbana de Danca, a dance company based in Rio de Janeiro that focuses on individual identities through an upbeat Afro-Brazilian sound. Dec. 1-3.

“Bow’T Trail,” a dance piece by Rhodnie Desir that was postponed due to the pandemic, is a choreographic documentary that traces the rhythms and dances of enslaved African peoples through six countries in the Americas. Feb. 24-25.

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez: Martinez is a percussionist and Rodriguez is a  composer and pianist whose music is influenced by both Bach and Stravinsky and Afro-Cuban and jazz roots, and Martinez is a percussionist. Feb. 17-18.

“Balance/Imbalance & Judo”: The Seoul-based Baereishit dance company performs two pieces by South Korean choreographer Soon-ho Park, whose work blends dance and martial arts and traditional and contemporary movement. March 18-19.

“Between II”: Dancing Earth, based in Santa Fe, explores renewable energy from spiritual, cultural and practical perspectives, collaborating with core Indigenous artists and Native community members at each residency location. April 7-8.

Season subscriptions start at $90 for five shows. For more information: 941-359-5700;

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: The Ringling goes eclectic for Art of Performance series

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