posted by Anika Lindquist, Landmark Society Intern
A few summers ago my roommate came back from a vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland and could not stop talking about this “awesome street arts festival” taking place all over the city, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The history of this festival dates back to 1947 when following WWII city leaders decided to start the Edinburgh International Festival to “enliven and enrich the cultural life of Europe, Britain and Scotland.” Eight uninvited theatre groups also performed around the inaugural event and at the following year’s Festival journalist Robert Kemp noted of the performers, “round the fringe of official Festival drama there seems to be more private enterprise than before…” These rouge performers formed their own society, Festival Fringe Society, in 1959 in response to the increasing numbers of performers and ever since continue to unofficially perform surrounding the Edinburgh International Festival.
Today Fringe Festivals are growing in popularity and sprouting up across the globe, and this past Wednesday Rochester launched its first Fringe Festival. It grew out of many years of hard work since a conceptual idea for such a festival in Rochester in 2008 beginning with UR President Joel Seligman. UR grad and successful theatre career woman, Erica Fee who has been involved in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, joined preparations in 2009 and brought the idea to its launch this week.
After reading about the Festival in the local media a few weeks ago , I knew that one of the standout performances of the week would be the free aerial dance show off the side of One HSBC Plaza, by the group Bandaloop. The “stage” of the south side of the Plaza building supplied an incredible backdrop and crowds had already gathered for the 8pm show. Anticipation was high and as the building went dark in preparation the crowd whispered about the figures that had appeared at the top of the 21-story building.
One HSBC Plaza was the perfect structure for such a performance. The glass panels reflected the dancers as they moved down and around the façade. This excellent example of Modern architecture was designed by nationally prominent architects. The tower, the sixth largest in Rochester, was constructed in 1970 and, although a modern skyscraper might not be the first thing that leaps to your mind when you think of historic buildings, it is actually what preservation enthusiasts call a “recent past” resource, an important example of historic architecture from the mid-20th century. The concrete and travertine building lacks corner support columns while the surrounding columns vary in width and depth based on their carrying load. As the dancers flew through the air it looked like animations we’re jumping off graph paper into the night sky. Manhattan Square Park provided an excellent viewing area to gaze up at the structure.
It was a beautiful performance against the striking backdrop of One HSBC Plaza and for anyone who missed the show last night; I highly recommend taking advantage of the second free performance on Saturday afternoon at 4:30. After the rave reviews from last night be sure to arrive early to grab a good spot!
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