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In Plane Sight

Aha! dance theatre's fall performance is terminal.

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In the escalating air wars, rife with rageful passengers, surly flight attendants, and innumerable delays, air travel has become a necessary evil. Flying survives as the preferred mode of transport only because of its expediency; all the glamour is gone. And that is the chief reason aha! dance theatre's upcoming Planes at Kansas City International Airport is so intriguing.

This Friday at around 5:45 p.m., the five-person company will begin at Terminal A and, over the next two hours, move through Terminals B and C, performing different pieces at each spot.

One of the pieces is called "Transit." Structured by Nancy Pigno-Bell, it begins with four travelers seated next to one another, "not knowing each other. It begins with discreet looks and leads to a group melt," says co-artistic director Susan Rieger. Also planned is a piece that evolves from meetings at airport gates, set to the music of the Swedish group Vasen; another pairs the dancers with pieces of luggage accompanied by a Wynton Marsalis ragtime selection. An improvisational piece titled "Tuning Score" will depend on interaction with unsuspecting travelers.

The performances reflect aha! dance theatre's mission to, as Rieger says, "get out in the community, right under people's feet, and perform in a variety of settings. This is a site-specific piece using the architecture, furniture, and lighting of the site." The pieces are reminiscent of the performance art propagated by the '60s neo-dada group Fluxus; Rieger says, "It is, in a sense, performance art, with more of a focus on movement and less on text."

Planes is essentially the first act of a three-act piece that will also incorporate trains and automobiles. The third segment, scheduled for the spring, involves a moving van that will cart the company from Johnson County to its eventual last stop in Lee's Summit. The company's creative energy is as unorthodox as its members, which Rieger says "reflect a range of body types: round and curvy, muscular, and skinny. Our values are about breaking that idea that dance is reserved for athletic bodies and that dancers have to look anorexic."

Of the company's decision to cast its fall performance against the hustle and bustle of an airport, Rieger says, "When you think about people departing and arriving, all of the emotions are there."

And, she says, "KCI has been great to work with -- as long as we followed their guidelines: We can't override the announcements; we can't have cords anywhere, so the music has to be played on battery-operated equipment; and we can't hand out programs because of that question, 'Has anyone handed you anything?' And they asked that we do something in each terminal in order to be fair to different airlines."

Which raises the question: When have the airlines ever been fair to us?

In any event, Planes is free and scheduled to be at Terminal A, Gates 1-3, at 5:45 p.m.; Terminal B, Gates 26-31 at 6:45 p.m.; and Terminal C, Gates 59-66 at 7:45 p.m. The locations are, of course, subject to change due to flight schedules.

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