Rave New World

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Can rave be saved? SAFMOD, a Cleveland experimental art and dance ensemble, believes it can. Composer Neil Chastain, a co-founder of the group, explains that the techno/house dance movement, once the province of the trendy underground, has been corrupted by crass commercialism.

"The music has been too much of the same stuff," Chastain laments. "There's the smoke machines, the forty thousand watts of sound. The prices have been really high, and some of the advertised artists don't even show up. And you get this vibe," he says with a sigh, alluding to rave's drug-ingesting subculture, "that people aren't there for the music."

There is an antidote to this malaise, and that, SAFMOD proposes, is in offering ravers something different--the visually arresting, expressionistic melange of abstract dance and extravagant neo-primitive costumery it will bring to Lit2, a multimedia celebration.

The typical techno event is decidedly nonvisual, with performers all but invisible behind turntables and synthesizers. So the presence of the optically dazzling, kinetic SAFMOD at Lit2 may indeed help revivify rave. Chastain's electronic-music duo, Pureplex, will perform at the all-night féte, the location of which is, for now, a closely guarded secret. Ravers who call 216-388-8548, however, will be directed to a Cleveland home, where doors will open upon a candlelit environment and "deep house" music.

Young Park, co-director of SAFMOD, promises that her ensemble's performance will be "very visually oriented." SAFMOD costumer Lorna Santiago, a Philippines-born designer, creates wearable sculpture--glittering garments made of found objects such as aluminum soda-can tabs and plastic six-pack webs.

Park, a classically trained dancer, choreographer, and violinist, found-ed SAFMOD with Chastain in the early '90s. Chastain playfully christened their fledgling collaboration SAFMOD, for "sub-atomic frequency modulation overdose." (The name has no semiotic significance, Chastain confesses.)

SAFMOD has impressed audiences at the Cleveland Performance Art Festival and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

While striving to push the envelope of artistic expression, Park says, SAFMOD is "constantly learning new things. We're an always-learning entity."

--Pamela Zoslov

Lit2 will be held on Saturday, December 12, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Admission is $10. Call 216-388-8548 for location.

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