The annual Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe brings thousands of performing artists from around the world to the city to showcase their acts and talents. For some, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and for others, it is a yearly affair. Many of the artists are from Philadelphia and two, in particular, are from the Northeast.
Michael Susten, a director and dance instructor at Xhale Dance Company, is from Rhawnhurst. His middle-class upbringing meant he did not have the means to participate in other activities.
“I went to a local dance studio…and dance was our whole life,” Susten said.
He began training at a young age, primarily at Bobby Gees Motion N’ Dance on Revere Street across from Roosevelt Mall. He was later accepted to the High School for Creative and Performing Arts and became a Dance Company member as a freshman. After graduation, he attended the JCC Maccabi Games, brought home six gold medals for Philadelphia and choreographed sections of 6ABC/Boscov’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for a number of years.
Five years ago, after a brief break from studying at the University of the Arts, Susten established Xhale Dance with a group of friends.
“I took a year off from school to work, came back…and here we are today,” Susten said. This year, he and his company performed Underneath the Surface for their fourth consecutive Philly Fringe appearance.
Michael Tait, another Philly Fringe participant and member of One Percent Productions, is from Mayfair and currently lives in Holme Circle. He attended Father Judge High School and was inspired by the arts.
“…At Father Judge, [I was] watching the people onstage and thinking they were having a lot of fun. I wanted to give it a try,” Tait said.
Tait participated in the Philly Fringe sporadically over the years, producing Hardcore Comedy Hour for his first appearance in 1999. For this year’s festival, he produced, directed and wrote the play Saucy Bible Tales.
“It’s about the stuff that everyone knows is there and don’t like to talk about it. We put it into our show,” Tait said.
Though both artists have audiences outside of Philadelphia, they hope to return to next year’s festival.
“I plan to be here every fall, every Fringe,” Susten said. “I most likely will be, although we won’t get the ball in motion for that until next year,” Tait said. “I am looking forward to it.”
Pamela Seaton is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.