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Houston to get new performing arts festival

Molly Glentze, Houston Chronicle
Updated 8:38 am, Wednesday, January 15, 2014
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  • Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol, a performance collective from Mexico City, will...
  • Artist Suzanne Bocanegra will bring her
  • Artist Suzanne Bocanegra will bring her

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Houston may have been lauded last year as one of America's coolest cities, but it's about to get more hip.

CounterCurrent 14, a new festival of experimental performances organized by the University of Houston's Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and a handful of presenting partners, debuts April 9-13.

The festival will feature about a dozen performances, installations and experiences plus lectures, parties and happy hours. All defy traditional boundaries - think mash-ups of dance, music, theater, film, visual art and literature.

"It's really about new art forms, challenging our traditional notions of what arts are," said Karen Farber, the center's executive director. "We're trying to put Houston on the map for new performing arts."

While experimental, the festival's offerings will also be mainstream- and free, Farber said. "We're trying to break down all barriers, so people who typically don't go to see contemporary performances and visual art might encounter them accidentally and end up with a different perception."

With a headquarters in Midtown, the festival will unfold at venues between the University of Houston and downtown, including the university's Quintero Theatre and Blaffer Art Museum, DiverseWorks, Project Row Houses, Hermann Park and Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts.

The events include performances by Mexico City's Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol collective, New York choreographer Jonah Bokaer, New York installation artist Suzanne Bocanegra and Los Angeles filmmaker Wu Tsang. Harder-to-define experiences feature Houston talent, including location-based storytelling by Lacy Johnson and Josh Okun that unfolds via participants' cellphones; a sound art installation by Abinadi Meza; and the launch of a bilingual book by the "experimental language" duo Antena (Jen Hofer of Los Angeles and John Pluecker of Houston).

The cost for the festival will be about $500,000, Farber said. It's being funded through the Mitchell Center's endowment, with some funds coming from grants from the Houston Arts Alliance.

The full schedule and more information will be available soon at countercurrentfestival.org.

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