It’s back by popular demand. The crowd-pleasing, paradigm-breaking, award-winning Australian acrobatics ensemble Gravity & Other Myths returns to BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown to perform “A Simple Space” from Oct. 27 to 30.
“A Simple Space” is a circus. Or is it? There are no elephants, no costumes, no spotlights, no big top. Just eight acrobats in the raw who challenge each other and themselves with stunts, humor and a dash of danger. Gravity is the ringmaster.
Gravity & Other Myths’ co-founder, performer and tour manager Jake Randell prefers the term “new” or “contemporary” circus—a genre that is growing in the U.S., but deeply rooted in Europe, the Netherlands and Down Under. “France has over 800 contemporary circus troops,” said Krista Bradley, BlackRock’s executive director and contemporary circus enthusiast. “In Australia, the art form begins when kids are as young as 4 years old. It’s their version of our gymnastics classes.”
This is Gravity & Other Myths’ second visit to the BlackRock stage, although this time they come back as “audience choice” winners. On #GivingTuesday 2015, BlackRock turned programming over to ticket-buyers, and from a pool of five artists, Gravity & Other Myths was the audience choice. The shows are part of a two-month U.S. tour that began in Little Rock, Ark., earlier this month. The tour includes one new member, several workshops and an appearance at the Clarksburg Premium Outlets as part of a new sponsorship with outlet proprietor Simon Properties.
“‘A Simple Space’ is a unique show on many fronts,” Randell said. “The audience is up-close and personal to the performers, bringing a strong sense of connection to the show. We strip everything back: the costumes, the lighting, the staging…and leave audience members with nothing but high-level acrobatics.”
A reviewer writing in the U.K. Express described these acrobats as, “push[ing] their physical limits without reserve; this performance is simultaneously raw, frantic and delicate. Supported by driving live percussion and presented so intimately that you can feel the heat, hear every breath, and be immersed in every moment.”
Bradley concurred. “What’s so amazing about contemporary circus,” she said, “is that it blends the physical risk of the circus arts with the art of performance, making for a thrilling theatrical experience for audience members, regardless of age, language or background.” Bradley emphasized that “in this culturally diverse county, a show without words removes language as a barrier for many show-goers.”
Is “A Simple Space” suitable for families? “The simple setting and lack of ‘storyline’ means that all audiences can enjoy the performance for what it is: eight bodies pushing themselves to their absolute limits,” Randell said. Children will appreciate the sheer physical spectacle and may see their own favorite activity or interest woven into the performance. It is “an amalgamation of gym, dance, theater, sports and just about anything physical,” he observed. Bradley noted that the Sunday matinee is recommended for families with young children because the evening performances include an act in which articles of clothing are shed—not entirely, of course.
All Gravity & Other Myths troupe members have a circus or gymnastics background, except the musician who is a highly trained drummer and producer. The performers have been training for 10 or more years. A typical performance day is rigorous, with 2-1/2 hours of pre-show training, a warm-up including yoga, Pilates, gymnastics and Plyometric moves; practicing the show’s most difficult sequences; the performance; post-show cool down with light stretching; and preparing for the next show.
“Contemporary circus is one the hottest new trends in performance arts programming and BlackRock has been at the forefront of it for the last two years,” Bradley said. “We were selected to be part of a pilot project to build stronger international networks for contemporary circus in North America. That led to being introduced to the international world of contemporary circus, seeing a lot of work, networking with programmers, learning about the different kinds of programming and eventually, bringing international artists to Montgomery County.” It also led to BlackRock launching a contemporary circus programming initiative and its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
After visiting many contemporary circus hot spots around the world, Bradley admitted, “I was bit. I got the bug for this cutting-edge art form.” She is eager to share her singular passion with the rest of Montgomery County.
Performances begin at 8 p.m. Oct. 28 and Oct. 29, and the family show starts at 3 p.m. Oct. 30 at BlackRock, 12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown. For tickets, $27 to $34, visit www.blackrockcenter.org or call 240-912-1058. Workshops include “Acrobats for Athletes” at the Maryland SoccerPlex (7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26, $5, Wednesday, register at mdsoccerplex.org); “Movement and Theater for Circus Artists” (7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 27, $5, BlackRock Mainstage); and “Tumbling Workshop” for ages 8 and older (1 to 2 p.m. Oct. 29, Saturday, $5, BlackRock Mainstage). View this event on CultureSpotMC here.