Posts Tagged ‘Raphael Xavier’

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!



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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Breaking Down Breaking

Posted February 10th, 2016

Before we begin, let’s remove the word “breakdancing” from our vocabularies. According to practitioners and enthusiasts of the art form, the term is an ignorant one, rooted in the media’s exploitative representation of the style. It is thick with commercial connotations and an air commodification. So, trade breakdancing for “breaking,” “b-boying,” or “b-girling” instead. The exact origin of breaking does not have a single narrative, but there are two likely sources. The more obvious of the two is that the term resonates with breakbeats, the rhythmic breakdown sections of tracks DJs would loop to accompany dancers. However, DJ Kool Herc—one of if not the architect of hip-hop music’s foundational sound—pointed out that breaking was 1970s slang for “getting excited,” “acting energetically,” or “causing a disturbance,” all of which seem quite fitting for a dance style that often sees its artists bringing their performance to any public space that can contain it. Even more so when you apply them to the concept of a cypher, the circle formed by a convening audience around breakers engaged in dance battles. Spectacle has always been essential in breaking, for keeping an audience engaged and winning battles, but what happens when breakers get older and the wild kineticism they were able to achieve in their youth becomes physically reckless? Now that we’ve dropped the superfluous “—danc(e),” we can move on to Raphael Xavier.

The Unofficial Guide HHTF 2015-163

This weekend (Feb. 11-13), the renowned Philadelphia artist will bring his latest performance piece, The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance, to FringeArts and we could not be more excited. Xavier is a major figure in the Philadelphia dance scene as well as an accomplished artist across various other mediums. He’s a photographer, rapper/producer, actor, comedian, writer, and likely some other things we don’t know about, but even now as he reaches middle-age, breaking remains central to his identity as an artist. The Unofficial Guide stands as a culmination of his artistic experiences, finding Xavier drawing on them all to tell the story of an artist begrudgingly turned substitute teacher trying to properly convey his art to his class. “Bringing all my skill sets together to tell a 75% real life and 25% fictitious story actually equates to a 100% real life story from age thirteen to forty-five,” Xavier told FringeArts in a recent interview. “Each moment of my life and each moment I spend dancing on many stages around the world went into creating this work and the elements that put it together.”

To properly exhibit some of the more physically astounding, but taxing movements that become increasingly difficult with age, Xavier is accompanied by two other dancers representing his character’s younger selves. He deconstructs their movements by freezing, slowing down, exaggerating, and explaining them, all of which stands in contrast to the fast paced, frenetic energy that generally characterizes breaking, but also offers a unique opportunity to deepen one’s understanding of the nuances of an often overlooked art form. “[Other hip-hop companies] took the battle/street mentality and brought it to the stage and everything began to look the same,” Xavier noted, pointing to The The Unofficial Guide HHTF 2015-216Unofficial Guide’s freedom in exploring breaking on stage in such an instructive manner. “The structure of the work was about me telling a clear story so audiences could finally get my work.”

Though it seems prudent to leave most of the explaining to Xavier, I thought I’d share a brief explanation of the major elements of the breaking along with some illustrative videos to give you a sense of what it looks like and what to look for when watching it. These components are merely the framework of the art form upon which individual dancers build their own personal style. Before we get into it though, it seems worth pointing out that some notable breakers have objected to the proliferation of breaking videos on the internet, claiming that it has caused a decrease in diversities of styles. Rather than being influenced by their immediate breaking scenes, dancers are now being influenced by the same videos. As b-boy Luis “Alien Ness” Marinez puts it, “I’ve been all around the world, ya’ll been all around the world wide web.” So, to any potential breakers out there—and I’m sure most, if not all of you readers are—don’t let this brief crash course send you down an internet rabbit hole of breaking education. Instead, come see The Unofficial Guide this weekend to get a literal lesson from a true master of the art. Then go battle someone.

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Winter at FringeArts lights up the waterfront

Posted January 13th, 2016

Communications Intern Hugh Wilikofsky shares his comprehensive guide to the FringeArts Winter season.


As we gear up for our first show of 2016, we at FringeArts simply cannot contain our excitement over our entire upcoming winter season. Literally. It is tearing us all apart. We’ve been screaming about it at the top of our lungs for some time now and the neighbors hate us. This excitement needs an outlet. So, I am going to do my professional duty and alleviate at least a little bit of that need by clueing you all in to the future goings-on here by the waterfront.


Photograph: Moon So Young

First up, showing January 21-23 is Toshiki Okada’s latest play God Bless Baseball. A collaboration between Japanese and South Korean actors, the play follows two girls as they attempt to comprehend their countries’ favorite pastime with the help of a man who understands the game but despises it, and another who thinks he’s Japanese baseball star Ichiro Suzuki. However, despite the men’s best efforts, the girls continually frustrate their explanations, slowly teasing out just how deeply rooted the game is in the everyday life of Japanese and South Korean people.

Though most contemporary Japanese theater rarely makes it outside of the country (as far as I know, though I’d be happy to be wrong on that one), since 2009 Okada’s work has received regular productions here in the US. His oeuvre is said to represent Japan’s “lost generation,” the group most affected by the Japanese recession of the 1990s and this is perhaps part of why he has found an audience here, in the wake of our own Great Recession. Characterized by the idiosyncratic vernacular of Japanese twentysomethings, his vérité writing style is in some ways akin to that of renowned American playwright Annie Baker, but his use of disjointed and abstract choreography based on exaggerations of everyday gestures imbues his works with a quirk all his own. On top of the Philadelphia premiere of God Bless Baseball, FringeArts will also be hosting a reading of Okada’s The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise directed by Pig Iron Theater Company artistic director Dan Rothenberg on January 18.

Escuela, La Dirección y dramaturgia está a cargo de Miguel Calderón, se presentará en la sala N° 2 del teatro de la Universidad Católica a las 22 horas, en el marco del Festival Internacional Santiago a Mil. En Santiago; 20/01/2013 FOTÓGRAFO: * VALENTINO SALDIVAR*

Photograph:  Valentino Saldivar

Next up, showing January 28-30 is Chilean playwright/director Guillermo Calderón’s latest play Escuela. Set in Chile in the late 1980s, amid the tumultuous transition between the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and the dubiously regarded democracy that followed, a group of left-wing university students receive secret paramilitary training in the living room of a fellow dissident. Hiding their identities with hoods to ensure none of them can betray their revolutionary comrades, these intellectuals awkwardly learn skills essential to guerilla warfare, such as proper crawling and rifle cleaning methods, in the hopes of overturning a corrupt regime, all while grappling with the chilling realities of staging a violent insurgency.Calderón has made a name for himself with plays grounded in times of violent turmoil and political upheaval, using dangerous and unstable settings as a jumping off point for larger universal themes, and Escuela sits well within this established style while taking it somewhere new. Instead of the surrounding violence haunting the onstage proceedings, as it did in Calderón’s first play Neva, it is brought to the forefront in Escuela as we watch its characters preparing to engage with it. In an interview with FringeArts, regarding the political implications of his new work Calderón asserted, “Politics is a combination of emotions and rationality, and that is what Escuela tries to convey and push to its limit.”

Kicking off February is a multimedia performance from composer Daniel Wohl, who previously graced the FringeArts stage last year with a multi media performance of his album Corps Exquis. This time around the Paris-born composer will be presenting his latest full-length album, Holographic, accompanied by an excellent line up of musicians and video art projections from LA-based artist Daniel Schwarz.

Wohl has garnered acclaim for works in which the acoustic and electronic blend into each other: a resonating snare drum becomes a low unnerving drone, percussion and electronic noise crash into a joyous cacophony, and synthetic pulsations elevate the steady bowing of strings to a higher plane. The result is immersive, slyly disorienting music that seeks to close the gap between the chamber groups of concert halls and academia , and electronic experimentalists pushing sonic boundaries in basements and warehouses. This is a one night only event, so mark your calendar for February 5.

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