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Dancers, Divas & Puppets

Melanie Aceto in "Liaison" (photo by Paul Hokanson)

Dancer Melanie Aceto and Puppeteer Michele Costa at the Infringement Festival

The meaning of the word “diva” has somehow developed a split personality. The first two definitions of the word in the online edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary reference firstly: “The main female singer in an opera company” and then “A vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work under direction or as part of a team.” There is, however, a third definition of diva listed: “A usually glamorous and successful female performer or personality.” Luckily, this last definition of the word “diva” is the one that can be safely applied to the dancer Melanie Aceto and the puppeteer Michele Costa, who will each be appearing separately in multiple venues for performances that are certain to be highlights of the popular Infringement Festival.

Melanie Aceto and the art of Modern Dance

Melanie Aceto, associate professor of dance at the University at Buffalo, has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the most innovative creators and interpreters of modern dance in Western New York. Just in the last year, she has innovatively collaborated in works featured on the Burchfield Penny-based A Musical Feast series, including Israeli composer Moshe Shulman’s world premier of Defence, a multi-media work where the dancer, wearing partial fencing gear, interpreted the highly atmospheric music accompanying a Soviet era film. On that same program, Aceto offered a reprise of her unforgettable performance of Liaison, a work that she had premiered at last year’s June in Buffalo new music festival at UB. Liaison, a collaborative effort by UB graduate student composer Megan Buegger and Melanie Aceto, was the most startlingly original work at that year’s June in Buffalo. Aceto played the piano by dancing, using a complicated arrangement that she activated by slipping first her legs, and then her arms into cuffs that were connected by cords attached to the strings of the instrument, through a mechanism built over the lidless piano. The primeval sounds produced by her dancing movements resulted in a visual and aural experience that can only be described as hypnotically enchanting; it can be experienced by anyone attending her performance at Hallwalls at 341 Delaware Avenue on Tuesday, July 29 at 9:30pm.

Melanie Aceto is also featured in two performances of her ‘Dance Sampler’ program at the Karpeles Manuscript Library, 453 Porter Avenue, on Saturday July 26 at 1pm, and Sunday July 27 at 2pm. Her solo composition Vent uses breath to create a score that both accompanies and drives her movement, while her piece Advocate is a highly physical duet with another female dancer. Passing, by Laurie MacFarlane, is a collage of found movement set against a backdrop of spoken word and familiar song. Barrio Poems, a solo by Ruben T. Ornelas, set to the poetry of Joaquin Zihuatanejo, is interspersed with Mexican folk music. Permeable, by Anne Burnidge, “explores the delicate line between enough and too much”.

Michele Costa and theatreFigüren

Master puppeteer Michele Costa continues to both surprise and delight Buffalo audiences, continually taking her very personal artistry in new directions over the course of the past two decades through her theatreFigüren puppet company. While her new shows over the last several years, such as The Edge of Here and Symphony had found Costa increasingly miniaturizing both her puppets and the staging of her uniquely developed stories, she surprised her many fans last year with the charmingly zoomorphic fable of Elle the Wished-for Girl which featured her wearing a remarkably effectively crafted elephant’s head, while unrolling her long, meticulously hand-painted story scroll, a feature that has become a signature of her artistry.

“As we celebrate 10 years of ‘Infringing’,” says Costa, “theatreFigüren’s new performance piece Butterfly Sky celebrates the Civil Rights Bill signed in July of 1964. Two long scrolls of painted imagery move in opposition to a soundscape of music and spoken word courtesy of two presidents: LBJ, JFK—and, of course, MLK. This lyrical tribute gives a grateful bow to all those who fought for equality, including the freedom riders, the lunch counter sitters, the peaceful marchers and the passionate singers. A city bus, a school bus and, yes, a magic bus all play a role on this trip”.

A captivating 15 minutes long, the piece will be presented more than a dozen times in five outdoor locations, with the Unitarian Universalist Church (UUC) garden entrance at Elmwood and West Ferry and the Karpeles Museum at Elmwood and North as the two main venues. The first performances are on Friday, July 25 at 4pm at Karpeles, and at 6:30pm at the UUC, while the Sunday, July 27 performances take place at 3:30pm at Karpeles, at 4:45pm at Westside Stories, 205 Grant Street and at 6:30pm at the UUC.

For complete schedule of performances visit:

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