For the University of Kentucky theater department's first dance showcase two years ago, instructor Susie Thiel created a piece called How to Fold a Pleated Skirt: An Educational Guide, inspired by the preponderance of how-to lists on the Internet.
Now, the piece has become an item on the list of how to get your dance collective into the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, organized by Cincinnati's Know Theatre.
The 50-minute modern dance work had its first festival performance Wednesday night.
"I thought a fringe festival would be perfect to extend the work and show the piece," Thiel said of Pleated Skirt, which premiered in a shortened form at that 2012 dance showcase. "The Cincinnati festival was so close, and I have been wanting to get out into the region more, now that I have been in Lexington three years, and get out to Louisville and Cincinnati, so it seemed like a perfect fit."
The Fringe Festival, which opened Tuesday and runs through June 7, highlights edgy performing and visual arts with 33 productions and other offerings in the Queen City's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
For the festival, the five- person cast is made up of Thiel; Theresa Bautista, who directs Louisville's Moving Collective; Megan Jellison and Mary Szczygielski, graduates of UK's dance program; and Les Gibbs, currently a student at UK.
Thiel says she will be shuttling back and forth from Lexington to Cincinnati, but some of the students will be staying to see as much of the festival as they can.
Thiel says students played a vital role in doubling the length of the work to make it work for a festival performance.
"I work in a very collaborative manner, and we sit down and discuss different ideas they have or things that they have come across," Thiel says.
"One of them we worked over was 'how to get over a breakup,' and that was present in the first piece, and everybody had their thing to say. The first time it was done as a monologue. Now all five of us are onstage, and we're all giving advice — advice we've been given and advice we've given to other people. So we really sat down for a couple hours talking about all the crazy things that people have said to people, all the good advice, and came up with something that is funny but also a sincere expression."
The piece, Thiel says, was inspired by her own tendency to Google "how to ..." questions and by an NPR report that many how-to posts are not written by real experts. It was a concept she thought students could take off with, from talking about mundane tasks to very serious subjects.
She said an addition to this program is audience participation, from suggesting how-to's to dancing.
It's a piece she would like to take to other fringe festivals and similar events.
"I want to keep on working on it," Thiel says. "Also, just being out in the community, there are so many artists I am meeting now in Cincinnati and Louisville, and we're really creating a nice rapport, so I'm having dancers come here and I am traveling to work with other people.
"It's been a great experience of venturing out."