The second annual Tilt Kids Festival came to a close on Easter Sunday with a performance of Cuisine & Confessions, an energetic spectacle by Montreal-based collective The 7 Fingers (best known in the States for their work in the revival of Pippin). Turning the stage at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts into a warm kitchen, the performers dared the laws of physics by leaping through tight rings, hanging upside down suspended by fabric, and jumping from the multifunctional island at the center of the stage, to a tall pole where they would dive towards the floor. Strangely enough, beyond their dazzling physical skills and otherworldly body movements, watching the show felt akin to comfort food.
A theme that seemed at the center of several of the events in the festival. A few weeks before Cuisine for instance, Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun turned the concert hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art into a land of wonder, both impressive in its scope (it’s the Met!) and richly intimate, as he conducted the world premiere of his “Terracotta Symphony” inspired by the legendary Chinese sculptures created to protect the Qin Emperor. Watching the exhilarated Tan Dun conduct the Juilliard Orchestra had the warmth of a living room recital, with the epic sound of dozens of instruments breathing life into the sensuous notes.
Watching the musicians beam with joy and pride was not unlike watching the audience members at Snow White or the Fall of the Berlin Wall, a multimedia show by La Cordonnerie that combined sound effects, live music, narration and film, to create an experience that can be described as “sound mixing”, but truly felt much more magical than that. By moving the famous fairy tale to a contemporary setting, audience members witnessed a strong feminist message that essentially told them not to trust the mirror when it’s distorting who they know they are. This mature approach should have struck a chord with younger audience members who might only know Disney-fied versions of the story, and might have wondered on their way home: so not all stepmothers are evil?
This is probably the most exciting part about the Tilt Kids Festival, its refusal to look down at family audiences and addressing tough subjects in an artful manner, all while programming events that will also appeal the odd single, culturally inclined patron. From the acrobatics of The 7 Fingers, to the thrill of listening to Tan Dun’s score from Hero performed live, the festival truly had something for everyone, and like the best art events it didn’t limit itself to entertainment, rather people were treated to shows that invited them to join in. How many children will become circus performers or chefs because of what they saw in Cuisine? How many adults will research the terracotta warriors on Wikipedia rather than self-flagellate with the news? How many parents will talk to their children about the message of Snow White rather than spending their time together on their tablets? Thanks to the Tilt Kids Festival the answers are looking rather bright.