Brian Sanders Dance Tribute

A local dancer is honored at this year's Equality Forum.

By J. Cooper Robb
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 27, 2010

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Dive walkin': Brian Sanders portrays "the swimmer" as part of Equality Forum's tribute.

Photo by Pedro da Silva

Some Americans have an uneasy relationship with nature. Instead of enjoying grass and trees in our backyards, we transform a natural setting into an artificial oasis with a cement patio, fake grass, a swimming pool and an assortment of brightly colored plastic patio furniture. Choreographer Brian Sanders explores our obsession with taming the great outdoors in his magnificently fun dance-theater work Patio Plastico , which debuted at the 1999 Philadelphia Fringe Festival and is being remounted in a new version for the Brian Sanders Dance Tribute at Equality Forum.

This performance marks the second time the show has been reworked and Sanders’ third collaboration with the yearly GLBT forum. For the 2005 Live Arts Festival, Sanders expanded the story to include a nuclear family. Sanders says the new production, featuring a cast of students from the University of the Arts, is a hybrid of the two previous versions, and while it explores weighty topics such as life and death, it retains the original production’s playful spirit.

At just 43, Sanders has been one of the city’s most innovative and popular choreographers for more than two decades. He founded his company JUNK, the troupe behind Sanders’ Fringe shows, in 1992. He has also worked with popular Philadelphia dance troupes including MOMIX, Koresh Dance Company and the Pennsylvania Ballet.

At the forefront of the city’s dance- theater movement, Sanders’ choreography— which typically incorporates found objects—combines dance with movement- based theater to produce intensely physical works that are both accessible and entertaining. Emphasizing the beauty of the human form, Sanders’ style is sexy without necessarily intending to be and his sense of humor allows his shows to be enjoyed by both dance novices and aficionados.

Patio was not Sanders’ initial idea for his first Fringe show. “My original concept was for a duet in a car but I couldn’t use the car I wanted,” Sanders says. “When I went to the parking lot that the Fringe had got for the show my ideas began to change and somehow Patio emerged. I always like the idea of how we [American society] try to turn slabs of cement into plastic gardens. It just felt right to the put this fantastical, somewhat campy garden in the middle of a parking lot at Second and Vine streets.”

One of the most creative productions in the history of the Fringe, the original staging of Patio raised JUNK’s profile by playing to sold-out audiences and garnering critical acclaim.

Sanders, who is out, supports the forum’s mission to secure civil rights for the GLBT community, his work has neither a gay perspective nor does it promote any particular social or political agenda. “The GLBT community has always been a great supporter of the arts and Equality Forum is an excellent place to go to feel good about what you’re doing,” says Sanders. “But I don’t think my work has any kind of political edge to it. My work is more about the art and the celebration of the human spirit than any sort of message.”

In addition to celebrating Sanders’ work, the tribute also serves as a showcase for the University of the Arts School of Dance. Joining Sanders on the bill are three fellow UArts faculty members: Roni Koresh, Christine Cox and Zane Booker. All top choreographers, Booker will present a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Cox is contributing the short work X, Y, Z and Koresh Dance Company is staging The Beast.

Brian Sanders Dance Tribute


Fri., April 30


Merriam Theater

250 S. Broad St.


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