The Phoenix Gathering review for 2002

The Phoenix Gathering 2002 (U.S.A.),
28th. June thru to Ist. July.

Ever since the first Phoenix Gathering, co-producer David London has been trying to twist my arm into attending, but no matter how enticing his invitation, even if I started to make plans to attend, some conflict always managed to pop up. In 2002, I promised myself that I would see to it that I made it there, and I'm glad I did, because not only would I have missed a great event, but I would have missed what may very well have been the final Phoenix Gathering.

The Gathering differentiates itself from other conventions in many ways, most noticeably in its size. There is a strict limit to the number of attendees, and that already minimal group (100 or so) is further broken down into a number of smaller groups for "mini lectures/workshops" throughout the course of the event, in addition to the standard (well, standard is a relative term) full group lectures and shows.

While there certainly was the fair share of "trick trading" going on (both in jam sessions and in lectures such as Gaetan Bloom's unexpectedly extended lecture on his wild and wacky array of creations, and Jay Scott Berry's lecture on unique topit and thumbtip techniques), it mostly had a different feel to it than most conventions, and it was all more than balanced off by discussions of performance methods, ways of adding meaning to your performance, etc.

One of the highlights of the Gathering is its unique "Works in Progress" session, where any attendee can sign up for a chance to perform a piece he/she is working on and then receive written feedback from all the attendees. I think everybody who participated would agree that this was one of the most useful parts of the Gathering. I know I certainly picked up a few valuable suggestions from the feedback I received there.

The focus of this gathering, unlike most conventions, is on everybody in attendance as being equal. While there are scheduled shows and lectures, the emphasis really is on the events which allowed attendees to discuss openly with each other and to share with each other. How many conventions have you been to where the final event involved everybody sitting in a circle and sharing their feelings on what they got out of the convention with everybody else?

Over the course of the weekend, convention co-producer Alain Nu announced that for the time being, this was to be the last Phoenix Gathering. A possibility was mentioned that Hiawatha and other "regulars" would look into possibly reviving it at another location, but only time will tell. Until then, if you weren't there, you missed out on a wonderful experience, and if this Phoenix does rise from the ashes, you'd be well advised to take advantage of it!

Andy Leviss.

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