A taste of contemporary circus with Hand to Hand Circus Festival

4 minute read
Andrea Murillo performs in 'Eventide.' (Photo by Maike Schulz.)
Andrea Murillo performs in 'Eventide.' (Photo by Maike Schulz.)

Hand to Hand, the two-week circus festival presented by FringeArts, returns this year with performances taking place from June 3-13. This is the third iteration of the festival, which began in 2018. While Covid canceled last year’s festival, Hand to Hand contributed a virtual circus midway to the 2020 Fringe Festival. Now, the Hand to Hand Circus Festival is back with live performances including Heliopause and Eventide, two works of contemporary circus.

A contemporary circus

Even if you haven’t heard the term “contemporary circus,” you likely know what to expect and how much fun it will be. Developed in the second half of the twentieth century, contemporary circus has important differences from traditional circuses like the now-defunct Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. There tend not to be big-top tents, rings, or ringmasters, and contemporary circuses focus on human performers rather than animals. They combine aspects of theater with classical circus elements like acrobatics, juggling, and clowning, often with more emphasis on aesthetics, characters, and storytelling. Contemporary circus also may incorporate aspects of dance, athletics, video art, and fine art, all woven together into a single show.

Think of Cirque du Soleil—currently the world’s largest producer of contemporary circus—and the visual feasts of its popular shows, which sometimes include popular music by artists like Michael Jackson and the Beatles. Multiple styles and traditions create theatrical shows that appeal to diverse audiences. The innovations and artistry of contemporary circus helped renew interest in circus arts.

Liam Halstead, Sierra Rhoades, and Kevin Flanagan star in 'Heliopause.' (Photo courtesy of Circadium.)
Liam Halstead, Sierra Rhoades, and Kevin Flanagan star in 'Heliopause.' (Photo courtesy of Circadium.)

Pushing boundaries with Heliopause

Contemporary circus requires rigorous training, and at Hand to Hand, viewers can see performances by the 2021 graduates of Circadium School of Contemporary Circus. Circadium is the country’s first higher-education program for circus artists. Its Hand to Hand Festival performance Heliopause features the 2021 graduating class, and these students will receive their diplomas at the end of the show’s run. Heliopause is directed by celebrated tight-wire dancer Molly Saudek in collaboration with the Circadium performers. The show draws inspiration from astronomy: the heliopause is the boundary of our solar system. In this region, things happen with protons, electrons, and solar wind to create the balance of interstellar medium. Heliopause uses contemporary circus to explore boundaries, including spaces between the self and the other, and how these spaces contribute to understandings of identity.

Moving through Eventide

The Hand to Hand performance from 3AM Theatre riffs on relationships in a different way. Eventide is a multidisciplinary piece that tells the story of one couple finding their way from the twilight daze of conflict to the dawn of reconciliation and growth. Produced and performed by contemporary circus performers and dancers Kyle Driggs, Andrea Murillo, and Luna Deasy, Eventide incorporates expressive movement, object manipulation, and unique scene settings to address relationships between partners and with the self. A creative endeavor of Driggs and Murillo, 3AM Theatre is a multidisciplinary company that draws from contemporary dance, physical theater, and contemporary circus to create high-concept performances.

Heliopause, Eventide, and other Hand to Hand shows offer artistry and entertainment for the whole family.

What, When, Where, and Accessibility

The 2021 Hand to Hand Circus Festival includes the contemporary circus performances Heliopause on June 4-6 and Eventide on June 11-13. For more information, visit FringeArts online.

Hand to Hand is taking Covid precautions to keep everyone safe. Performances will take place inside the theater at FringeArts as well as outdoors and at the restaurant La Peg. Before each event, audience members must complete a Covid questionnaire and agree to comply with all on-site safety protocols. Attendees over the age of 2 must wear masks at all performances, both indoors and outdoors. Staff will wear masks, and hand sanitizer will be available. The box office will be outdoors to allow for adequate social distancing. Inside the theater, audience members will be able to sit with their group (up to 6 people), with one row and two seats kept empty between groups. No food or drink is allowed in the theater, and seats will be wiped down between performances. FringeArts is operating at 25% capacity to accommodate these seating arrangements.

Image Description 1: Andrea Murillo hangs from a trapeze set that has glowing, bending hoops against a deep purple backdrop.

Image Description 2: One of the performers is at the front of the frame, posing and standing with three rectangular-shaped blocks that together are about as tall as his torso. Behind him are the other two dancers, a woman standing on the shoulders of a man, the man looking up towards her, and the woman looking to the right of the frame.

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