Almanac Dance Circus Theater engages families at the Barnes

by Jane Fries for The Dance Journal

Almanac Dance Circus Theater gave a short performance of their signature partner acrobatics, as well as a workshop for kids, over the weekend at the Barnes Foundation’s Free First Sunday Family Day. The company’s four dancers displayed how they generate their performance pieces through playful trial and error, and then invited their rapt audience to play along too.

Encircled by a large group of parents and children in the museum lobby, the Almanac crew launched into their mighty and artful acrobatics. In an opening duet, Desiree Hall and Nick Gillette tested the limits of their physical relationship – and she lifted him as frequently as he lifted her. Nicole Burgio and Lauren Johns followed with a supple, counterbalancing sequence of evolving sculptural shapes.

When the quartet performed altogether –  stacking up, somersaulting and tossing one another into the air – they actually made a few mistakes. These small slips were interesting because they revealed the group’s close physical awareness, giving a glimpse into how they make adjustments and prevent catastrophes. This is the kind of trust, as they emphasized during the workshop that followed, that is the crucial foundation of partner acrobatics.

After the performance, about forty kids joined in to guide one another around the space with eyes closed in a trust-building exercise. Then the Almanac dancers assisted them in stacking up and balancing in pairs. The kids were enthusiastic and impressively rose to meet the challenge. Were there some future circus artists in the making?

I’ve seen two other performances by Almanac Dance Circus Theater this year:  xoxo moongirl, a recent evening-length solo work featuring company member Nicole Burgio, and Leaps of Faith at last year’s Fringe Festival. Almanac is an immensely talented group, consistently creating engaging work on a shoe-string budget. Their métier is a unique blend of physicality, spoken word, live music, and imaginative stage design. I highly recommend them to Philly dance goers.

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