Circus Arts Mixes With Dance Theater For This Years Fringe Festival

by Steven Weisz for The Dance Journal

Philadelphia has adopted and created its own genre of “Tanztheater” or Dance Theater, a term by which is it better known here in the United States. It is the the union of dance and choreography with theatrical methods of stage performance. And in this town, a blend of circus arts has also been incorporated to create a new, visual dance form and audience experience.

This year’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival offers a variety of dance theater experiences, integrating a wide variety of performance art and dance components, where nothing is off limits in exploring and expanding creativity. Below are our top five picks for this year’s festival, each with a different approach to the dance theater experience.


Raphstravaganza: The Kinetic Experience
Sep 10 2016 @ 12:00 PM
Philadelphia City Hall Courtyard, 1401 John F Kennedy Blvd

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.  Original compositions by saxophonist, composer, and 1996 Pew Fellow Bobby Zankel will act as musical narration for the urban styles that Xavier says “profoundly influenced my life during childhood and have shaped the artist I am today.” Performers include Bill Shannon, a choreographer, dancer, and Guggenheim Fellow known as Crutch Master who has choreographed for Cirque Du Soleil; Lamonte ‘Tales’ Goode a cypberyogi contortionist and hip hop acrobat pioneering new styles and BMX Flatland pioneer Pete Brandt who single handedly changed the technical style of riding; and additional performers from Philadelphia. A set of four, 30-minute choreographed performances will be structured throughout the courtyard space and will pay tribute to the soul of the city, inviting discovery of urban street dance and movement. Tickets & Info



Exile 2588
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre
Select dates and times from September 8 – 23
Painted Bride Art Center. 230 Vine St
$20 / 70 minutes

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. Almanac Dance Circus Theatre was founded in 2013 by Nick Gillette and Ben Grinberg, graduates of the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, with Adam Kerbel, a graduate of the Headlong Performance Institute. The company is Philadelphia’s standard-bearer for contemporary circus, nationally recognized as the only company to be selected for Circus Now’s International Circus Exposure Community Choice Competition for two years in a row. Tickets & Info



Surface Tension
Tangle Movement Arts
September 14 – 17
Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N American Street
$14-20 / 80 minutes

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. Tangle Movement Arts is a circus arts company with a contemporary twist, whose performances mix traditional circus like trapeze and acrobatics with dance, theater, and live music to tell a multi-dimensional story. Tangle’s work is devised collaboratively by its all-female ensemble, and reflects individuals of diverse identities, with an emphasis on queer and female experience. Based in Philadelphia, Tangle has been a FringeArts favorite since its inception in 2011. Tickets & Info.



Grounded Autonomy
Garrett Olthuis and Sean Green
September 9 – 11
The Glass Factory, 1517 North Bailey St
$20-35 / 120 minutes

Explaining the inexplicable pull of another person, and redefining what that means to you. Going against the grain, or in this case Gravity, and overcoming judgement and questioning to not only capture moments in time, but to reemerge better than before. Disapproval from family, friends and even from within yourself.  SkyDance Philly is a collective of emerging performance artists interested in exploring movement beyond the ground. Pushing the limits of the physical body and taking their audience to their creative ether. Combining classical circus acrobatics with organic motion, they showcase the universal human possibilities and forge a full spectrum view of the world. Tickets & Info



Linear Default
3 Pony Show / keila cordova dances
September 9 & 10
Conwell Dance Theater, 1801 North Broad Street, 5th Floor
$20 / 60 minutes

A rope, an audience, and a stage full of dancers. What is the connection? Linear Default engages us with sequences, where variables alter both sides. Keila Cordova creates with “a fusion of style and subject matter capable of yielding a wide variety of aesthetic experiences and meanings.” – Philadelphia Inquirer.  Tickets & Info


***All photos courtesy of FringeArts


About Steven Weisz

Founder & Editor
While not a dancer himself, Weisz’s love for the arts and dance started as a child growing up in New York City. With parents, who were strong supporters of the arts and part of a community with an incredible array of notable artists in music, dance, theater and fine arts, Weisz’s access and affinity for the performing arts took root. Upon attending college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid 70’s, Weisz started performing as a puppeteer, magician, juggler and fire eater as a means of supplementing his income. This soon grew in to what became Rainbow Promotions Inc., one of the largest entertainment and special events producers in the region. It was here that he began to promote and book dance for major events throughout the city. Many of the dancers he worked with in the early days of his company are now major choreographers in Philadelphia. At the same time, Weisz’s interest in computers and the early developments of what is now known as the Internet, led him to also start another company, Delaware Valley On Line, which became one of the first regional ISPs. It was this combination of event production, internet development and event marketing that led him to examine the use of the internet as a means to promote the arts. Dance continued to be a major interest for Weisz and in 2005 he founded as a major online resource to promote dance in the city. It was soon after that the Dance Journal was also founded as a way to provide an outlet for writing on a range of topics that encompass the ever growing and emerging dance community in the region. Weisz continues to run both PhiladelphiaDANCE and The Dance Journal on purely a voluntary basis with no income derived from any of his projects. He is also the Artistic Director of Graffito Works, a unique platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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