Amelia Engel, Contributing Photographer

Slow-motion running, one-handed backflips, hanging suspended upside down from a partner’s waist. All these feats make up just another day in the lives of the members of PUSH Physical Theatre.

Whether each “PUSHer’” appears extremely muscular or, by contrast, scrawny and flimsy, every one of them performed incredible, physical accomplishments.

The evening’s performance began with a piece depicting runners before a race. Through a soundtrack featuring monologues by competitors in the race, the audience was able to know what each runner felt by hearing his or her inner thought processes while simultaneously seeing his or her facial expressions.

All the while, PUSHers readied themselves at the starting line then raced around on a “track,” running quickly enough so as to become like the darting bullet that initially pronounced their start.

One might have easily mistaken PUSH for a dance troupe since the performance was hosted by the Dance and Movement Program and took place in Spurrier Dance Studio. However, as evidenced from its opening piece, the group displayed both theatricality and sheer physical strength in addition to a dancer-like grace.

This continued through every number in the show. At the start of the performance, co-founder Darren Stevenson made a matter-of-fact disclaimer that one member was very ill. “If one person faints, or vomits on you, that’s why,” he said to the crowd. What a welcome!

Stevenson’s introduction set the tone for the evening, gearing the audience up in a playful mood.

The organization of the performance was such that Stevenson came to talk to the audience directly in between pieces, giving descriptions of what the group was about to perform as well as little anecdotes and facts about the PUSHers and what they do.

Pieces ranged from goofy and humorous to touching and melancholic, sometimes with a combination of all these qualities.

During “Parenthood,” Stevenson and his wife and co-founder Heather Stevenson depicted the trials and tribulations of surviving in a house with two children. Well-timed choreography set to Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” made for some entertaining blanket tug-of-wars between the parents and outbursts from supposedly “sleeping” children.

Conversely, a solo piece performed by D. Stevenson in honor of England’s Remembrance Day (similar to our Veteran’s Day) tugged at the heart strings.

Throughout the piece, Stevenson alternated between the character of a young boy excitedly playing baseball and that of a soldier amidst the horror of battle.

While turning his back to the audience, the transformation took place, and Stevenson’s youthful glee quickly shifted to military hardness as his baseball bat became a gun.

Another impressive feature about PUSH is the diverse backgrounds and ages of all its members. Although the Stevensons attended both dance and mime schools, the other three members of the group have very different backgrounds.

Avi Pryntz-Nadworny has experience in the Cirque du Soleil, Jonathan Lowery trained as a classical actor, and Andrew Salmon is a writer-turned Parkour instructor. After hearing where each of the PUSHers came from, it’s no wonder the team is able to incorporate so many different types of performance into its art. Stevenson revealed that he was forty at the beginning of the show, but the remaining members (excluding his wife, Heather) could not have been more than twenty-eight. The age gap did not reflect in the group’s performance in the least; throughout the entire show, the PUSHers were exquisitely aligned, both mentally and physically.

Though the Stevensons are not originally from Rochester, the pair has made this hub of the arts their home since 2000. UR students can take pride in the fact that this rare, accomplished, and internationally recognized performance group was born in the very city where our good friend Rush Rhees maintains his firmly planted roots. Sure, Kodak went out of business, and the RPO has experienced its fair share of drama of late, but art continues to proliferate regularly in Rochester with more fervor than ever.

As young people who stimulate a large portion of the city’s economy with our tuition dollars, it’s our responsibility to support our local artists so that they can stick around for awhile. The next time you think about stepping out on the frat quad, watching a movie, or going to that house party, consider venturing into the city to see all the cultural activity it has to offer instead. You only have four years (well, most people, at least). Take it all in.

Dickerson is a member of the class of 2013.

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