Live Arts & Philly Fringe Reviews: "Red Rovers," "A Paper Garden" & "Dancing Dead"

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Neither soft wind nor fresh air is detectable at Dancing Dead, a new underground production at the Philly Fringe from the dance-theater troupe Brian Sanders’ JUNK. Veterans of the Fringe and one of the festival’s most popular troupes, Sanders’ company is known for its intensely athletic, high-flying choreography.

Performed in the dingy, very smelly sub-basement at 444 Lofts, Sanders and technical director Terry Smith (who is also responsible for the production’s evocative lighting design) have transformed the cavernous space into a rundown graveyard, blanketing the floor with grass and huge mounds of dirt. Featuring an old gravedigger (Sanders) who carefully tends to the grounds, corpses emerge from the dirt in a number of innovatively staged resurrections. Freed from their crypts, they engage each other in thrilling displays of physicality. In the show’s most impressive sequence, dancers perform intricate aerial acrobatics while hanging from thick elastic ropes stretched between the space’s four large cement pillars. Accompanied by a surprisingly appropriate soundtrack of 1970s radio hits, Dead is an exhilarating and at times moving expression of life’s finiteness and the eternal nature of death. (J.C.R.)

Dancing Dead. Through Sept. 17. $25. 444 Lofts, 444 N. Fourth St.

ALL SHOWS: 215.413.1318.

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