The greatest show on earth, reimagined

Nick Gillette and Ben Grinberg take turns flying, with each other's help. Photo by Elyssa Goodman.

Hey, boys and girls, the circus is in town!

But not that musty, old, weary, time-corroded been-there-seen-that circus, with its scary clowns, its PETA-offending sado-whipped carnivores, its droopy pachyderms triggering PTSD-like flashbacks of Dumbo’s mom. It’s the world premiere of Communitas, a 70-minute nervy, spry work of dance/circus/theatre, performed by Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, carrying kids of all ages, the young and young-at-heart, to the edges of their seats.

Almanac is Nick Gillette and Ben Grinberg, abetted on this occasion by Adam Kerbel and Lauren Harries, with Rob Emanuele improvising on mandolin and lap dulcimer. Gillette and Grinberg, who have studied and worked together at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training and the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, where Almanac is currently the resident company, jointly received a Fresh Tracks residency at New York Live Arts, where they debuted a small portion of Communitas to much acclaim.

Communitas's proclaimed “tale of the founding of a civilization” seems one dull barb. But its promised execution seems more difficult to spit out. The performers climb, fall, lean, leap, lift, soar, support, and tumble. They push their physical capabilities to the edge, courting exhaustion and danger, testing themselves and relying on their companions for safe passage and triumph. These efforts transport their audience through a complex, novel emotional sea, at the end of which it will disembark, hopefully, with an expanded view of art and entertainment and, at least momentarily, a new view of the world.

Almanac Dance Circus Theatre’s Communitas is coming to the Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street, Philadelphia, on May 22, 23, and 24 at 8pm, and May 24 and 25 at 3pm. General admission tickets are $20, and $10 tickets are available for students and artists.

A special guest show by No Face Performance Group will precede the May 24 8pm show, and Almanac will also offer a free program of Communitas excerpts outdoors at The Porch at 30th Street Station on May 9 at 6pm, in partnership with University City District. For tickets and more information, visit

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