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Archive for the ‘Circus Arts’ Category

Pretty brain melty: Interview with Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

Posted May 1st, 2017

This Mexican Week, FringeArts presents two one-night-only shows by Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, An Homage to Whatshername and A Door in the Desert.  These shows, made in collaboration with Mexican choreographer and performer Emmanuel Becerra, have been nurtured over the last six months with intensive, long rehearsals, deep conversations about the things that divide us, and Almanac’s signature compassion.  Artistic director Ben Grinberg, Emmanuel Becerra, and company members Evelyn Langley and Joseph Ahmed were kind enough to talk through their process, and how Fronteras (the umbrella title for both works) came to be.

FringeArts: How did the title FRONTERAS come about? And then how did the two titles—A Door in the Desert and An Homage to Whatshername?

Ben Grinberg: Fronteras is the Spanish word for “borders.” My collaborative relationship with Emmanuel Becerra has always been about sharing our different cultures, and, in a way, asking questions about why cultural perceptions and stereotypes exhibit themselves in the ways that they do. When we started talking about the project we would work on together, it was at the height of the presidential election season, and of course—and unfortunately—our writing grants to bring a Mexican artist to the United States to collaborate began to feel like a political statement. Emmanuel took this idea and started to get very interested in the idea of boundaries and borders, both politically as it pertained to his experience of working in the United States, and in investigating the borders and boundaries that exist between and within people. When we traveled to Mexico City this summer, Emmanuel shared this research with us in the form of a series of collaborative workshops, which culminated in a site-specific performance in a four story building. When the audience arrived, we asked them to write a border that they struggle with internally on a piece of paper. We took all of these pieces of paper and put them in a bag, and as the bag got passed between performers in various parts of the house, the papers took on a votive significance.

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FEASTIVAL is almost here

Posted September 24th, 2016

The 2016 Fringe Festival is approaching its end, and while it’s tragic that our lives can’t always feature such a bevy of thrilling and thought-provoking performance, I’m sure everyone is ready to return to their normal routines that include things like sleep. But before you settle back into that same old, there’s still a bit of celebratory fun to be had here at FringeArts. The 2016 Audi FEASTIVAL, FringeArts’ annual fundraiser, is coming to the waterfront Thursday, September 29 and bringing some of Philadelphia’s best restaurants and performers in tow.

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(photo by Neal Santos)

For the first time in FEASTIVAL history, co-host Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Abe Fisher, Federal Donuts) will curate a live gastronomic performance, taking advantage of the event’s Fringe Fire Pit and PECO Ice Station to prepare some divine dishes that will be served directly to guests. Chefs Solomonov, Nick Macri (La Divisa Meats), and Brad Spence (representing Alla Spina and the Vetri Family of restaurants) will heat things up, manning two rotisseries and a grill, while Chefs Greg Vernick (Vernick Food + Drink) and Peter Serpico (Serpico) will keep it cool over at the ice station.

Food won’t be the only thing there to grab your attention though. After all, this is FringeArts. Circadium, the nation’s only school of contemporary circus, will astound you throughout the evening with stilt walkers, jugglers, contortionists, and aerialists providing quite the spectacle. Returning for their second FEASTIVAL, FringeArts favorites Red 40 & The Last Groovement will be bringing their raucous clown funk party back to their old stomping grounds with an LED video stage provided by Tait Towers. Inside FringeArts at the Audi Artist Lounge muralist Juan Dimida will live paint a 2017 Audi A4 over the course of the evening, utilizing a mix of traditional painting styles and cutting-edge digital art to achieve his innovative vision. Meanwhile in the lounge, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, a consistent Festival favorite, will be showcasing their wildly imaginative and daring brand of physical theater.

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A Matador, Luchadores, and a Godless Bull

Posted September 8th, 2016
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Forrest Shamlian and Justine Parks (photo by Michael Ermilio)

To its many critics, bullfighting is viewed as cruel and inhumane blood sport, but those who practice and promote it hardly see it as a sport at all. To them it is a highly ritualized cultural event, a gracefully choreographed dance, a deadly serious and death-defying art in the most literal sense. Significant as it may be to Hispanic culture however, the practice’s prevalence has steadily declined in recent years. It’s been banned in parts of Europe and Latin America, including three Mexican states: Sonora, Guerrero, and Coahuila. It seems as though in this day and age our desire to witness someone taking their life in their hands for a bout with a dangerous yet ultimately innocent animal has dwindled. But what would happen if the bull was complicit in the act, eager to entertain?

This weekend Ethos Physical Theatre Company will present their inaugural show, Matador, as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Written by and featuring Ethos co-founder and trapeze artist Justine Parks and drawing inspiration from both bullfighting and the Mexican freestyle wrestling form lucha libre, it explores the relationship between a fearsome bullfighter and his godless bull, a tragic love story set in a fairy tale version of Mexico.

“The entire show is designed to celebrate a mash-up of traditional and pop culture in Mexico,” Parks tells me. “The matador and the godless bull agree not to kill one another so long as they give each other a good and fair fight each night, thus making their bullfights more of a ‘show’ than an actual fight to the death. We thought each of them being luchadores was a great way to illustrate that their goal in fighting one another is rooted in entertainment.”

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Festival MVP Brett Mapp’s 2016 Schedule

Posted September 7th, 2016

Opening night of the Festival is tomorrow, can you believe it? It will no doubt be an incredible couple weeks of inspired performances, but if you’re like me you haven’t quite locked down your festival schedule yet. I mean, who has times for puzzles these days? It might seem overwhelming to fit all these amazing shows into just little more than two weeks, but thankfully there’s hope. Fringe Festival veteran, Old City District director of operations, general man about town, and self-described “hardcore Fringer” Brett Mapp has been kind enough to share his 2016 Fringe Festival schedule with us. If you’re looking for some guidance on what to see and how to fit it all together, it can’t hurt to start here.

the chairs

Tomas Dura, Bob Schmidt, and Tina Brock in Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs (photo by Johanna Austin @ AustinArt.org)

9/7
Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs @ 7:30pm

9/8
CITIZEN @ 7pm

9/9
Exile 2588 @ 7pm
Feed @ 8:30pm
Anithero @ 10pm

9/10
Raphstravaganza The Kinetic Experience @ 12pm
Levée des conflits @ 8pm

who would be king

Rebecca Lehrhoff, Rachel Wiese, Jesse Garlick, and Veronica Barron in Who Would Be King (photo by Chris McIntosh)

9/11
Who Would Be King @ 2pm
They’ll Be Callin Us Witches @ 4:30pm
Notes of a Native Song @ 8pm

9/12
The Sincerity Project @ 7pm

9/13
Gala @ 8pm

9/14
I Fucking Dare You @ 8:30pm

9/15
Animal Farm to Table @ 6pm
Wroughtland @ 9pm

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Lauren Rile Smith

Posted September 6th, 2016
Lauren Rile Smith headshot

Lauren Rile Smith (photo by Karen Rile)

Name: Lauren Rile Smith

Type of Artist: Trapeze artist and circus-theater producer

Company: Tangle Movement Arts

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Ampersand, Tangle Movement Arts, 2011 – Producer/Performer
You Don’t Say, Tangle Movement Arts, 2012 – Producer/Performer
Break/Drift/Resist, Tangle Movement Arts, 2013 – Producer/Performer
Loop, Tangle Movement Arts, 2014 – Producer/Performer
The Girl’s Guide to Neighborly Conduct, Tangle Movement Arts, 2015 – Producer/Performer

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016: I’m producing and performing in Tangle’s 2016 show, Surface Tension, at Neighborhood House Sept. 14-17. We use trapeze and aerial silks to get under the skin of a Tinder date turned rocky relationship, an advice columnist who could use a taste of her own medicine, and a well-mannered office worker who snaps under pressure. It’s a circus-theater exploration of how much we see past the surface of other people—how much can you really know someone—at home, in the office, 20 feet in the air?

Tangle Movement Arts at FringeArts 4

Smith and Sal Nicolazzo (photo by Michael Ermilio)

First Fringe I attended: The first Fringe show I saw was 2008’s The Destruction of the City, and Also an Itinerary for Visitors, a show that was collaboratively devised by the theater ensemble Ad Hoc, using found text and live music and puppetry to evoke the ruins of Pompeii. I went to the performance because I had friends in the company, but also because I was curious about this multidisciplinary ensemble-generated devised-theater thing– what was it like? I was a writer and editorial assistant, just beginning the slow pivot in my life that eventually transformed me into a trapeze artist and ensemble-based circus-theater producer. True to its name, Ad Hoc only ever produced that one show, but the taste of freedom and magic potential I got from that Fringe show has inspired me ever since.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The Fringe Festival was the platform that launched my circus-theater company, Tangle Movement Arts, in 2011. On fire about the radical potential of circus performance, I wanted to make a feminist circus-theater show that mixed techniques from aerial acrobatics, dance, theater, and queer storytelling. I gathered a group of likeminded troublemakers and we worked obsessively for most of a year to create Ampersand. I had never produced a show before, but had this deep sense that it was possible. Sometimes I felt aware that I was re-inventing the wheel over and over, but that almost made me proud—say what you like, this one’s MY wheel!

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2016 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Circus arts and acrobatic theater

Posted September 6th, 2016

Philadelphia has become a hub for forward-thinking and stunning works of circus art and physical theater. Check out some of the 2016 Festival’s offerings of performances that push movement to new and exciting extremes!

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Raphstravaganza The Kinetic Experience @ Philadelphia City Hall Courtyard Raphael Xavier

Leading hip-hop artist and 2013 Pew Fellow Raphael Xavier will bring together masterful street performers, extreme BMX riders, acrobatic contortionists, and live music for Raphstravaganza: The Kinetic Experience, a contemporary circus-style performance in City Hall’s courtyard. Featuring jazz composer Bobby Zankel. More info and tickets here.

 

exile body

Mark Wong, Nick Gillette, Ben Grinberg, Lauren Johns, and Nicole Burgio (photo by Kate Raines)

Exile 2588 @ Painted Bride Art Center
Almanac Dance Circus Theater

Exile 2588 is an acrobatic folk-music space epic adaptation of the story of Io set 572 years in to the future. Smashing together the genre of space epic with the sweet strains of American folk music, Almanac’s physical vocabulary swells to include break dance, static trapeze, and ever more innovative ensemble acrobatics, asking timeless questions about mortality and how much control we have over our bodies. Almanac’s signature style of physical storytelling, dance, and circus will be accompanied by an original song cycle by Chickabiddy (Aaron Cromie and Emily Schuman). The piece is outside eyed by Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Dan Rothenberg. More info and tickets here.

surface tension

Lee Thompson and Lauren Rile Smith (photo by Michael Ermilio)

 

Surface Tension @ Christ Church Neighborhood House
Tangle Movement Arts

How far can you see beneath the surface? Tangle’s acrobats explore life’s hidden currents and push through the forces that pull us together. Merging circus arts with theater, dance, and innovative storytelling, Surface Tension uses trapeze and aerial silks to dive into a world of fixed points and sudden changes. More info and tickets here.

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Fringe Festival 2016 Spotlight: Suitable for All Ages

Posted August 30th, 2016

Just because it’s at the Fringe doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home. Check out some of the Festival’s productions appropriate for all ages. Bring the whole family!

spherus

(photo by Colleen Joy)

 

Spherus @ Philadelphia School of Circus Arts
Greg Kennedy – Innovative Juggler

Updated for this year’s Fringe, Spherus: a trio-show featuring international juggling champion Greg Kennedy, complemented by aerial dancers, Rachel Lancaster & Christine Morano. In collaboration with video-projection artist Jeff Bethea, multimedia effects enhance venue installation, juggling sculptures & acrobatics. More info and tickets here.

clothing

Ready for Night by Linda Dubin Garfield

 

 

Clothing: Stories from the Closet @ The Book Trader
Linda Dubin Garfield / Susan DiPronio

Clothing: it’s what you chose to wear, how you adorn yourself; it shows who you are. It’s what drapes the windows of your soul; clothing defines or hides you. Share your story—write it, create it, tell about it. Art materials provided at on-going workshops. Proceeds benefit victims of human trafficking. More info and tickets here.

 

exile

Mark Wong, Nicole Burgio, Ben Grinberg, Lauren Johns, Nick Gillette (photo by Kate Raines)

Exile 2588 @ Painted Bride Art Center
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

Exile 2588 is an acrobatic folk-music space epic adaptation of the story of Io set 572 years in to the future. Smashing together the genre of space epic with the sweet strains of American folk music, Almanac’s physical vocabulary swells to include break dance, static trapeze, and ever more innovative ensemble acrobatics, asking timeless questions about mortality and how much control we have over our bodies. Almanac’s signature style of physical storytelling, dance, and circus will be accompanied by an original song cycle by Chickabiddy (Aaron Cromie and Emily Schuman). The piece is outside eyed by Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Dan Rothenberg. [Disclaimer: This production does deal with serious themes of mortality and death.] More info and tickets here.

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With Retroact, Tangle Remixes Its Repertoire

Posted March 14th, 2016

Nostalgia is big business. It sells ad space during blocks of reruns on late-night television. It pushes drinks on club theme nights where people only want to dance to The Cure, Joy Division or Bauhaus. It’s probably mentioned multiple times in half the job descriptions at Buzzfeed. These days it’s easy to get cynical about nostalgia’s all-pervasive influence. It’s a tool that’s easily exploited, turning it from something pleasurable and personal to a hollow cash in on our shared recollections. But then there are those much welcome instances that remind you looking back can be a means of celebration, of reaffirming identity, of sharing something that remains relevant with those who missed it the first time around. Tangle Movement Arts, Philadelphia’s all-female circus arts theater company, is just about due for some of this nostalgia and this weekend they will have it. Their latest show RetroAct, a circus-theater remix of the most exciting moments from their oeuvre of aerial dance theater, comes to Christ Church Neighborhood House from March 17–19 and should not be missed.

Tangle - RetroAct 2

Photo by Michael Ermilio

Since 2011 Tangle and its ten woman company of artists and collaborators has brought multidisciplinary, multidimensional storytelling with an emphasis on queer and female experience to spaces high above any other stage in the city. Mixing traditional circus arts like trapeze and acrobatics with elements of dance, theater, and live music, Tangle tells their stories in a manner few could ever dream of imitating. “We believe that circus arts can be a powerful tool for challenging assumptions about what bodies should look like and what they can do – from floating upside-down, to subverting gender roles,” poet and performer Lauren Rile Smith, Tangle’s founder, recently told FringeArts. “Circus arts is a context in which women build muscle, men move gracefully, partners lift each other into the air, and everybody can defy gravity.”

Taking its name from the possibilities that arise when things get complicated, Tangle has produced ten full length shows, five of which enjoyed successful runs as part of the last five Fringe Festivals, and numerous pop-up projects along the way. Each highlights women’s strength and queer stories while rendering complex, oft-unspoken ideas into remarkable physical feats. The Girl’s Guide to Neighborly Conduct, which premiered at the 2015 Fringe Festival, followed six longtime housemates whose lives are quietly upturned following the arrival of a new neighbor. You Don’t Say took a dinner party setting and subverted the expected smatterings of small talk and flirtation by translating them into acrobatic explorations. Timelines looked to the past, present, and future to examine notions of time and the female body through a series of pieces that included a daydreaming 1950s office secretary, vaudevillians, and the evolution of life on earth.

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So Much To Do This Weekend!

Posted May 27th, 2014

What’s come to our attention:

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27, New Paradise Laboratories

Remember New Paradise Laboratories’ hit performance 27 in the 2012 Fringe Festival? Whether you missed it the first time or are eager for more, 27 returns Thursday, May 29th through Saturday, May 31st at the Painted Bride Arts Center, 230 Vine Street. Members of the “27 Club” of talented musicians who passed away at the age of 27—Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Jimi Hendrix—explore purgatory and deal with a new arrival to their group. Questions of musical genius, mortality, and the afterlife coalesce in this performance pulsing with music composed by guitar prodigy Alec MacLaughlin. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and can be purchased online.

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Kate Aid of Tangle Movement Arts. Photo by Michael Ermilio.

Looking for some circus arts this weekend? The Porch at 30th Street Station has been showcasing a series of dance and physical theater performances this spring and summer. On Saturday, May 31st at 2pm and 4pm, the Porch will come alive with acrobats and aerial dance in Tangle Movement Arts’ free performance of their new and original work Passages. The urban circus-theater will explore daily life in urban Philadelphia and play with the idea of 30th Street Station as a public center for Philadelphia. The rain date is Saturday, June 8th. More information can be found at: www.tangle-arts.com

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Performers in CATCH Takes Philly

After you leave 30th Street Station, head over to The Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N American Street at 8pm on Saturday, May 31st, for the explosion of performance events that is CATCH Takes Philly. Usually confined to Brooklyn, this weekend CATCH joins Philadelphia’s Thirdbird for a night of dance, theater, video, performance, and beer. CATCH Takes Philly will feature Tei Blow, Cara Francis, Meg Foley, Groundswell Theater Company, Cynthia Hopkins, Jaamil Kosoko, No Face Performance Group, Brain Osborne, Matt Romein, and Saúl Ulerio. Tickets are $15 at the door, beer included.

Round off your weekend by attending the culmination of a year of research into voice and movement improvisation by the Leah Stein Dance Company on Sunday, June 1st, at 5pm. The renowned composer Pauline Oliveros developed the deep listening method of incorporating environmental sounds into musical performance, and has been working with the Leah Stein Dance Company to explore the relationship between deep listening and movement. Oliveros, Stein, seven dancers, and seven singers will conduct a free performance, panel discussion, and opportunity for audience participation at The Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine Street, this Sunday. More information can be found at: www.leahsteindanceco.org.

Leah Stein Dance Company conducing research with Pauline Oliveros.

Leah Stein Dance Company conducing research with Pauline Oliveros

–Miriam Hwang-Carlos

Montreal’s FAQ Circus Collective is Coming to Germantown and Now You Know

Posted August 8th, 2013

IMG_0962 - CopieThe circus arts are alive and well and Frequently Asked Questions Circus, an American contemporary circus collective based in Montreal, is transporting their exhilarating blend of modern and traditional techniques to Philadelphia this weekend to make sure you’re in the know. A consortium of friends, classmates, and co-workers, each member uplifts their extraordinarily unique physical abilities–acrobatics, aerials, juggling, clowning–as a medium for deeply personal storytelling. Aiming to stretch, bend, and break the conventions of what goes on under the big top, FAQ Circus delves into every avenue of performative spectacle  from contortionist tricks to trapeze work to Chinese hoops to dabbling with cucumbers. Presented by the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts (5900A Greene Street), the company enlightens Philadelphia audiences to the exciting, transformative nature of circus with their debut production, Now You Know, showing this Friday at 7:30pm and Saturday 2:30pm and 7:30pm. FringeArts had a chat with co-creator/manager Lindsay Culbert-Olds to get her perspective on circus arts, the mission of FAQ Circus, and what’s in store for the show.

FringeArts:  How did this all get started?

Lindsay Culbert-Olds: FAQ started as a group of all American circus performers who were raised in American youth circus programs and ended up moving to Montreal for a higher level of circus arts that was there that we hadn’t found in the US. We all had a dream of performing in the US, but because of the lack of circus culture we all ended up in Montreal. As FAQ, we want to come back to help a larger circus culture grow in the US.

FringeArts: Why call yourselves Frequently Asked Questions Circus? 

Lindsay Culbert-Olds: We thought for a long time about what to call ourselves, and then we all settled on Frequently Asked Questions because when people find out we do circus, there are always these frequently asked questions . . . “Oh, you’re in the circus, what is that like? Are there lions? Is there a tightrope?” Frequently Asked Questions reflects the goals of the company. We want to answers those questions, and we answer them by the way perform.

FringeArts: What was the creation process like, reconciling with traditional and contemporary modes? What can we expect the result to be at the show?

Lindsay Culbert-Olds: We all grew up in the traditional circus style and want to stay faithful to those things we love–there is trapeze, tightwire aerials, acrobatics, and there are clowns. What we found in Montreal was all types of dance-based circus, theater-based circus. We want to do something that’s not just for tricks, but still have that joyful entertainment value. We worked together all year experimenting. In the show, individual members will each have a number. What we want to do is portray ourselves and our stories with circus arts. Although we don’t have a director, we are a group of people working together, and we want people to see cohesiveness, how much we love circus, and just how proud we are of what we do.

Thanks Lindsay, excited for the show!

FAQPhilly2

Buy your tickets!

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts

5900A Greene Street

Shows Friday, 8/9/13 at 7:30pm and Saturday 8/10/13 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm
Check out the video below of FAQ doing their thing!

-Maya Beale