Tribal fantasia of Sanders’ Sanctuary

One of the centerpieces of this year’s LiveArts-PhillyFringe festival is Sanctuary, by choreographer Brian Sanders and his troupe JUNK. Sanders has turned the festival’s warehouse space in Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia.

Ten dancers (including Brian) are the mohawked denizens of a future gothic fortress pursuing enlightenment through physical and intellectual freedom. In this piece Sanders continues to explore acrobatic dance language, laced with his signature physical comedy and, as usual, liberated sensuality.

At a run through this week, Sanders was dashing on and off the set, wearing hats as director and dancer, he was otherwise calmly working out some of the kinks with various suspension apparatus.

“All my dancers think I’m a mad man now. I definitely lost my cool more than usual and am so preoccupied where everything is supposed to be that I keep forgetting my own choreography when I am trying to be just a dancer.” he said standing in just his dance-belt and sweat. He admits it was very hard working with such a large scale and being in the piece himself.

Dancers vanish in mysterious chambers or they assemble on a wooden skeletal galley that pitches with the weight of the dancers, which Sanders calls “pew.“ There are also suspension pipe-cubes that men mount and dance in and spin into bodysculptures.

Sanders, who himself danced with Momix and choreographed for Cirque du Soleil, pushes movement physics with dancers in ever precarious positions, inversions, vaults and swinging (on industrial nylon). In one sequence, the troop of ten are rested on each other and bloom into lush bodyscapes that keep evolving out of yogic and gymnast poses.

The soundtrack, a mix of club chant of the Cure and other 80s apocalypto mixes, including Jimmy Somerville’s fab remix of Don’t Leave Me This Way. Hey, I think I remember that night.