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Gone 4-Ishing 

Dutch dance troupe leaves its home base for fourth U.S. tour.

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Since zig-zagging across the U.S. and Canada on three prior tours, ISH founder Marco Gerris has pinpointed the major difference between North American audiences and those in his adopted Holland: They "have bigger mouths." He's expecting another raucous reception tonight, when his 12-member street-art dance troupe, in their 4-ISH tour, shakes up Playhouse Square as part of its Discovery Theater Series for Families. "Your audiences are much more vocal. They shout. They scream. And it's very nice," says Gerris, a Philippine native who was raised in Belgium. "I like that because we need that energy from the audience."Rightfully so. The hour-long performance blends martial arts, bungee jumping, and high-NRG dance moves with in-line skating and Xtreme sports against a backdrop of black walls and spasmatic strobe lights. Gerris invented the concept in 2000 after a teen career as the Dutch champion in freestyle skate-dancing. "I never saw a show with all this street art onstage. I like to skate. I like to break-dance. I like to beatbox. I wanted to make a show that combined all these disciplines," says Gerris. "It's the combination that makes it all exciting."The onstage adrenaline rush also prompted Gerris, in 2003, to start a "breeding ground" in Amsterdam, where potential cast members train for possible parts in his shows. Today the school boasts a two-year program for 50 students between 17 and 27 years old. And he's started a satellite school in India, with plans to build a third institute in the U.S. within the next two years. "I know it sounds crazy, but I give them a voice, in a way. It's the first time they see something recognizable. Youngsters and theater normally don't work together," says Gerris. "We've found a successful formula."To say the least. After the North American tour, the troupe plans to take the show to China and several European countries. And the international embrace still takes Gerris by surprise. "If people had told me this would be around eight years later, I would have laughed hard," he says. "It's like a dream to keep on going, because it's perfect for me. It's a blessing in a way." ISH performs at 7 tonight and 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $10. Call 216-241-6000 or visit www.playhousesquare.com.
Fri., Feb. 1, 7 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 2, 11 a.m., 2008

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