Thursday, October 24, 2019

IMMERSE: The Art of Athleticism

Pam Schwartz and I explored IMMERSE on Friday night. We started at the north end and walked our way down Orange Avenue towards the Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The first stage had a monumental Red Bull truck parked behind the stage pumping out the tunes. Red Bull BC One Cypher dance performances didn't start until 7pm so we continued on our way south. In the former entry to City Arts Factory, Ha'Ani Hogan had set up a tall wall of paper flowers which made a great photo backdrop. A mom was photographing her son as we walked by. Quite a few artists were working on free standing 6 foot tall walls creating murals.

The next block had the large Massey Stage with an exuberant dance company which I believe was the LMHS Unity Step Team.   As we walked behind the stage the dancers moved to the loud drum beats of The Mood Designers. I noticed a volcano belching flames and smoke a block further south so we kept moving forward. The volcano seemed like it should make a good sketch subject but it was fenced off on all sides, keeping any people out of the scene and possible sketch. Since I had sketched Architect of Air the day before we headed that way. An aerialist was spinning on some silks in front of City Hall but it seemed like a rehearsal not drawing any crowds as of yet.

I had sketched the inflatable structure that housed The Art of Athleticism the year before but noting was happening inside. There fore I was extra curious to see what it was all about this year. When we entered we saw a crowd of people dancing in front of a large screen. Each persons silhouette could be seen on the screen in bright colors like orange and blue. When they moved their arms, arcs of brilliant blue, orange and magenta would be drawn on the screen following their moves. If they moved fast enough blue sparks would shoot across the screen along with vibrant yellow splatters. This was a great opportunity to people watch. Most adults lost interest rather fast but the young at heart and kids could be entertained for an  extended time. As I sketched Pam watched the Dr Phillips Stage which had a Raymi Dance Company. She had never seen anything like it so I was a bit sad that I didn't catch that performance. When I finished the sketch the Orlando Ballet was performing a lively modern dance routing along with fast paced turn of the century french tunes. Robert Hill has done an amazing job of transforming the dance company so that they appeal to a younger audience. There was sass and attitude that I loved. Vampires ball is coming up at the Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the ballet director let the crowd know that it is a show not to be missed.

It was dark by the time my sketch was done so we explored Immerse by waling our way back north, seeing each staging area a second time but now in the romantic mysterious night. Between Jackson and Church streets, there was a black structure covered with chalk drawings done by everyone passing by. Every square inch was covered in brightly colored chalk drawing. Inside was a series of rooms that were intending to explore the senses. The first room smelled like a camp fire. We ducked under a black cloak into the next room that was filled with sounds. Another room was covered in mirrors and had bright Chinese lanterns. Then a final room had spices, fruits and various farmers market items each of which could be touched.

We waited for a dance performance to begin at the Church street stage but there were technical difficulties that kept the dancers just stretching on the stage. Further down Church street there were several areas set up like live TV recording studios. A band was set up and playing really loud so the broadcasts must have been on hold. A narrow alley way was set up with collages by Christie McLennan that seemed to be a statement about pop culture. Butterflies spread their wings and took flight from this collage world spreading up the walls. The title of this piece was Wasteland. Despite spending several hours exploring IMMERSE, I know we only got to see and experience a fraction of what was there.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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