The 7th annual SoLow Fest comes to the car, the attic, the cemetery, and more

Julia Brandenberger celebrates life and death with 'Cemetery Dances.' (Photo courtesy of the artist.)

Is there anyone out there? SoLow Fest, back for its seventh installment June 16 through 26, is looking for “Signs of Life.” The annual 11-day festival, in which new and experimental art happens anywhere, examines what excites artists and proves to them that life is out there, according to organizers.

“Art is a reflection of life,” said festival leader Meredith Sonnen. “This a good mirror to use.”

The collective memory of onions, attic tales, and more

Performances take place all over the city and run the gamut from theater to dance, to Twitter feeds, to events in moving cars. Most are pay-what-you-can. Non-traditional venues and small fees allow art to be extremely accessible and that’s important to organizers and creators. “We strive to be low maintenance and low budget, allowing artists to put art anywhere, on any terms,” Sonnen said.

SoLow Fest features more than 40 shows — so far (more are being added to the website until the festival begins). You can experience: For A Good Time Call by Mike Durkin, which is about a man tethered to his phone for a week and “getting lost, discovering new things, and understanding our diverse communities”; Onion Dances by Talia Mason, which lets her “cut into the collective memory I believe onions contain” and exploring her roots; NO SLEEP by Going Dark Theatre (created by Josh Hitchens), which is a storytelling experience for 13 people in a dark attic at midnight, and more (here’s the full list, including reservation information).

Dancing on graves

Julia Brandenberger offers Cemetery Dance. She’ll dance in Woodlands Cemetery (the entrance across from the 40th Street trolley portal). It’s something she’s been doing alone for a long time and recently shared with a group of people. She decided to include more folks through this year’s SoLow Fest.

“I’ve always felt at home dancing outside,” she said. “It’s just something I do.”

But why in a cemetery?

It’s quiet. They’re usually relatively flat. They’re private. But it’s about more than just logistics.

“For me, there’s an open feeling about it,” she said. “It’s a reflective place.”

Brandenberger, who has been dancing since she was 7, said as an artist, a thinker, and a student, she has had “an intense interest in death since the time I was 17. I started to contemplate death heavily. I went through a period where death felt very close all the time for months,” she said. “Through my own experience, and through the teachings of mentors and authors, I’ve come to understand that…intimacy with death pushes us towards greater life,” she said. “I cultivate a relationship with mortality because it nurtures my sense of time and purpose and meaning.”

When dancing in the cemetery: “I feel right and I’m honoring my life and the art in me.”

There’s no music, except what’s in her head, but people will hear the train going by, birds, the sound of her feet on the ground. Her dance is improvisational based on what she feels in the moment. “I’m just going to react to the environment and let loose and see what happens.”

And that fits with the spirit of the Fest, said Sonnen: “It’s fun to see what people are capable of if you take away all the rules.”

The 7th annual SoLow Festival is coming to sites all around the city from June 16-26. 

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