San Diego Fringe: Anna Yanushkevich's 'Nocturnicon' Dazzles
Dance, Aerial Acrobatics, And Blood
San Diego Fringe is in full swing with 80 shows from around the world at multiple venues. But one homegrown production worth checking out is Anna Yanushkevich's "Nocturnicon."
I met Anna Yanushkevich a couple years ago on a shoot in which she was a sexy assassin and I got my brains blown out. She wasn't the one who killed me, so I don't hold any grudges. I didn't get to talk to her on the set and had assumed she was a model hired for her striking appearance. Little did I know how truly talented and darkly twisted she was.
I spoke with her after her opening performance of "Nocturnicon" at San Diego Fringe's Off Fringe site on Saturday. I had to wait for her to wash the blood off her face, but her long white dress was still splattered with red stains. She explained that there was a "splash zone" because the final piece involved the dancers spraying themselves and the front row audience with blood.
“I have kind of different interests than other people," Yanushkevich said with a lovely smile. "I’m into medical arts and specifically things that people have tried and failed at, also the occult, of course. I guess things that most people scoff at, I try to research and see why, and it’s usually, actually really awesome. So I feel like I wanted to create something that kind of had both the things that I felt were beautiful and also the things that people thought were disgusting and tried to let them see the beauty of it because I try to find the beauty in that.
"So that’s kind of what the show is about. It’s all the things that people maybe are actually interested in but they would never admit to their friends because they don’t want people to think that they are weird. But it’s really all stuff that we may watch in the privacy of our home or do when we are all alone or maybe have thought about but never really verbalized, so it’s in a way really personal show for everybody because it’s all things that we’ve thought about and want to talk about but maybe now they can. They can go out for a beer afterwards and [perhaps reveal] 'when I was 12, I was institutionalized.' So it’s also kind of something that will hopefully be a conversation starter for people and get them to open up and really see that we are not so different.”
The multiple pieces — linked thematically but not telling a linear narrative of any kind — range from mesmerizing studies of the body in motion to stunning explorations of death and insanity. One piece, which reminded me of "The Human Centipede," boasted spellbinding choreography while another in which the dancer uses crutches was simply stunning.
Yanushkevich also used a wide array of archive footage — ranging from medical footage demonstrating how to do a lobotomy to Disney cartoons — to bridge the different pieces.
“So the projections I didn’t really think too much about till I had to figure out transitions between acts," Yanushkevich explained. "And then I thought, well, people don’t really know what’s going on in my head so I should try to show them in three- to five-minute films what this is actually about, because they may or may not get it. So it kind of helps to tell the story, which there isn’t really a story. It’s kind of like when you dream or you’re sick and have a fever, you have those weird fever dreams. That’s kind of what this is like, and so what better way to do it than through dance and aerial arts and blood and other things.”
"Nocturnicon" is considered part of the Off Fringe, which also includes "Devil's Due" from Pink BoomBoX (also at Ocean Beach Playhouse) as well as the racy cabaret piece "Courtesan Cafe" and the Irish burlesque show "Sweet Pang!" (all rated R) at Les Girls. San Diego Fringe also has a selection of Family Friendly Fringe shows and Visual Fringe (featuring Nigel Brookes' striking and satiric 3D black light art project The Ancient Gallery).
San Diego Fringe continues through July 13. I urge you to make an effort to check out some shows, especially "Nocturnicon," "Dr. Frankenstein's Traveling Freak Show," "Beau and Aero" and "Doctor Schmoctor."