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BendyKat and Alpizar combine at Art Walks the Runway for visually-arresting, memorable show


On Saturday night, Art Walks the Runway featured a mesmerizing performance by abstract artist Israel Alpizar and contortionist and hand-balancer Katarina Danks, who performs under the appropriately descriptive moniker of BendyKat.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Kat is trained in both Mongolian and Western contortion. Along the way, she’s learned from some of the world’s most prestigious trainers and performers – not just in the United States, but from Europe and Canada, along with circuses like Cirque du Soleil, Big Apple Circus, Ringling Brothers, and Circus Roncalli. She has performed locally for Circus Transform US, the Fort Myers Film Festival, Telemundo Television, HSN, DAAS Co-Op Gallery and others. [More about Danks is available at and Instagram @Bendykat.]

2023 was not the first time that Kat has performed at Art Walks the Runway. While she’s thrilled and honored each time she’s invited to perform at Southwest Florida’s premiere fashion event, Kat is cognizant of the necessity for taking her performance to ever higher levels.

“Every time I return, I want to make my performance special and unique so that anyone returning to the show recognizes that I’m doing something different to change up the scene,” notes Danks in an exclusive interview for WGCU News.

So this year, Kat collaborated with local artist Israel Alpizar to incorporate both art and projection mapping into her routine.

“I’m definitely an art-in-motion type of performer, and I like to collaborate with musicians, with artists, with other types of performers to combine skills and throw the unique factor into something that people see day to day or make something a little more obscure than what they might be expecting,” Kat amplifies.

It’s a safe bet that the guests who attended couture night weren’t expecting to see a solitary figure clad in circus-clown coveralls applying paint to the clothing on mannequin positioned on a white drop cloth in the center of the long black runway that bisected the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center’s grand atrium. That figure belonged to Alpizar, who ignored all the nattily-dressed guests grabbing cocktails, mixing and mingling and settling in their seats on either side of the catwalk.

Alpizar is an independent art director, web and graphic designer, and video and marketing brander for several companies across the United States. Proficient in both fine art and digital media production, Israel received his Bachelor’s Degree from The Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. He often exhibits his art and conducts live painting demonstrations at art festivals like ArtFest Fort Myers.

Recently, he exhibited a show titled “Fractasia” in the second-floor Capital Gallery that consisted of a fusion of fractals (infinitely complex proportional geometric shapes and patterns that repeat across different scales and dimensions of time and space) and fantasia (imagery and imagination with a free-flowing, no-strict-form musical composition) which combined traditional painting techniques, contemporary projection mapping, lighting effects and interactive installations. He drew now on all of those media and disciplines for Danks’ BendyKat show.

As the minutes ticked past the fashion show’s 8:00 p.m. start time and anticipation soared among the crowd, Alpizar suddenly gathered his paints, picked up the drop cloth and carried the mannequin back stage.

But he reappeared during the intermission that followed the Asta Razma segment of the couture fashion show.

As they stretched, refreshed their drinks and happily returned from the restroom ques, few patrons paid much attention to Alpizar as he resumed painting the wrap extending from the mannequin’s flat stomach and narrow waist. But gradually, a murmur passed through the room as one after another and another noticed that the mannequin had turned into a blue-wigged mime. Only the occasion blink of her narrow slit eyes gave it away that Alpizar was working on a living, breathing muse.

And then, as before, Alpizar gathered up his paints, brushes and the seemingly weightless mime, and whisked them backstage.

The theme now set, Alpizar returned with his mime following the Zodiac Collection portion of the show for what turned out (and this is no disrespect to the other performers and performances) to be the evening’s most visually-arresting and memorable show, a gravity-defying demonstration of strength, balance and flexibility set to an elegant blend of electronic music and Alpizar-inspired lights.

“Music and I have a beautiful relationship,” Kat remarks.

“I find inspiration through all types of music and when I’m asked to use music for my performances, it’s really important for me to deliver a great product for the audience to enjoy. It’s like a beautiful storyline, in a way, that you’re interpreting and want to bring to life through your own art.”

True to form, the musical component enabled Kat to seamlessly move from one pose to the next with the lyricism and fluidity of a choreographed ballet routine. The result was a breathtaking combination of artistry, aesthetics, musicality and imagination.

“I always wanted to work with Israel,” Katarina adds, who met Alpizar last year at Art Walks the Runway, where he also did a projection mapping project. While they discussed ideas off and on for several months, nothing seemed to come of it.

“Just when it seems that nothing’s going to happen, those beautiful interactions or pieces of art come together,” says Kat wistfully. “Everything sort of meshed and it seemed like it was the right time, the right moment to finally get together to create something we can both be truly proud of.”

Just one tiny problem.

While it’s clear that with Saturday night’s performance, BendyKat has soared to all new heights, how can Kat possibly up her game if she’s invited back next year?

For more on Katarina Danks and her craft, please read here.

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