A 3-day celebration of dance, theater, and comedy, Fuse Festival opens in Charleston this week with an array of classes and performances. I spoke with co-founder sisters Megan and Shelli Pue about their vision, what it was like to work with the local arts community, and the nitty-gritty of what participants can expect during Fuse’s inaugural festivities.
What is the Fuse Festival? How did you come up with the idea?
S: Fuse is a workshop and performance festival for beginner to professional dancers, actors, and comedians. The idea for the festival came to me after years of watching my younger sister, Megan dance and act. Megan now has her own dance troupe, the Charleston Characters Dance Company, who often use narration in their performance pieces. It occurred to me that the next step would be to bring the larger dance and acting community together. There is not a lot of overlap between these art forms in Charleston and it’s about time we fused the two! For the festival, we have an incredible staff of teachers and performers coming together from around Charleston as well as Columbia.
What classes are you offering? Can you describe some of the more unique ones?
M: We are offering a wide range, from classical ballet to stage combat class. There are classes catered to more professional dancers who want to keep training as well as people who have never taken dance before. One class that I think is really unusual is the Site Specific Dance class. In it, participants will go outside and improvise off of their surroundings. The goal is to experiment with movement and hopefully achieve a new awareness of the body as it relates to nature.
S: I find the Solo Show workshop for Stand-up comedy to be a very unique class. A lot of comedians want to have their own show, but need help with the creation and delivery of their set. JT Hooper will guide them through the process; he hosts a few shows in town. I also think the Liturgical Foundations dance class is really special. Formal Liturgical dance classes are offered very infrequently, so we are bringing in Gail Faust who is both an ordained minister and trained ballerina.
I saw that there are professional photography sessions available during the festival. Why offer these and who are you having take the photos?
S: These sessions are mainly to aid actors, dancers, and comedians with their headshots. There are so many young performers who need quality headshots for auditions, but don’t have the money to pay for a photographer. We want to offer an affordable solution. Our photographer, Maggie Bailey does professional headshots as well as dance photography.
Can you tell me a little about the theme: Verbal Vs. Nonverbal: Which is Louder?
M: For the theme, I really considered what dance and theater had in common and what set them apart. Both are incredibly expressive forms of communication, but they “speak” in very unique ways. Acting typically revolves around the spoken word while dance is formed through movement. However, something magical happens when the two overlap, which is why my dance company frequently uses narration instead of music. Likewise, great actors are often able to say more with their facial expressions than with a script. The theme Verbal Vs. Nonverbal: Which is Louder? begs the question of how to create the maximum impact in a performance. It challenges both dancers and actors to think outside the box.
What was your experience working with our community to put on this festival? Is it likely to be an annual event?
S: The community of Charleston really bent over backwards to make this vision a reality. We had several situations that didn’t go quite as planned; for example, one of our event venues fell through at the last minute and we were able to find a replacement very easily. It was like every time we needed help, someone would step in to give it. We were given so much support for this festival and in exchange, we are going to offer two scholarships to deserving students at the College of Charleston majoring in Dance and/or Theatre. It’s been overwhelmingly great to work on Fuse and we are planning to have it return again next year.
For more information, class passes, and performance tickets, please visit Fuse Festival online.