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Wednesday, Jul 2 1997
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A mixture of idealism and pure spirit gave the festival a Dead-show atmosphere, a grooviness and forced enthusiasm for Right Thinking. "If I ruled the universe," one performer said to a cheering crowd at the end of her piece, "there would already be a cure for AIDS!" There were kid acrobats from the San Francisco School of Circus Arts, boys who could do handless somersaults through hoops and girls who could bend their spines backward to rest their butts on top of their heads. Adult acrobats, like the faux-French trio Le Pamplemousse, did entertaining comedy routines with silver hoops and a bullwhip while they worked up to the anticlimactic "Double-Decker, Flame-Throwing, Sphere-Spinning Whipping Post." And a group called Monkey Thump offered hand-puppet monkeys with drumsticks for feet -- "percussive puppetry" -- as well as a play involving monkey puppets in painted, human-actor trees, killed off by a horrible clashing aluminum humanoid that scared a dog in the audience and could have been the unnatural child of your mother's pot-and-pan drawer and a vacuum cleaner. The trees were reborn by music, predictably enough, a percolating rhythm of tribal drums and a farting didgeridoo.

It was all delightfully chaotic. There was spontaneous nudity -- a woman took off her shirt and danced in front of Ruben Castro's hotel-window mime performance -- as well as slam-style poetry from Sister Spit, pretentious and angry and loud. The funniest act wasn't an act at all, I don't think -- just a wandering clown in a rubber nose and a beanie, carrying two suitcases and laboring down Ellis Street with a heavy trunk attached by a rope to his waist. Kids would sit on the trunk to slow his progress. And the best act was the last one, by Project Bandaloop, four women and two men dancing on the side of the Hotel Senator, suspended by ropes, treating the enormous wall as their stage floor and flipping, slowly, into space, landing with near perfectly choreographed precision on their feet. It reminded me of Fred Astaire tap-dancing up the wall of a bedroom, although not even the white-bread Master of Footwork on Film could pull that off without a camera trick.

-- Michael Scott Moore

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