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New York-based performance troupe Galumpha brought its unique blend of art and entertainment to the Cannonball Festival, an independent Fringe Festival series produced by Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and the hosting MAAS Building. Cannonball aims to serve both artists and festivalgoers at a one-stop venue, and this event offered a pleasant outdoor space for gathering before and after an enjoyable performance.
Galumpha combines acrobatics, physical comedy, and choreography into its own inventive, athletic, and quirky style. Andy Horowitz, artist-in-residence at Binghamton University, co-founded Galumpha with Greg O’Brien in 2002. Most dancers retire before age 40, but Horowitz continues to perform. Gil Young Choi and Christian DiRado-Owens joined him at MAAS in a program of vignettes harnessing the performers’ strength, agility, endurance, teamwork, and comic timing. Often funny and sometimes moving, the self-titled show is a meditation on creativity, trust, cooperation, and human expression.
Acrobatic stunts and physical theater are the company’s strengths, and Galumpha delivered plenty. Highlights included countless variations on the human pyramid, often incorporating motion. In “The Blues,” the trio spun with two performers hooked around the waist of a third. A recurring motif included one performer leaping onto the feet of another who lay on his back. The venue’s intimacy dissolved a bit of the fourth wall to reveal what might be hidden from the audience in a different setting, including how hard the performers worked during an hour of nonstop physical feats. In the front row, I could see the sweat and hear the verbal communication necessary to safely execute collaborative stunts. Cleverly, Galumpha turned many of these moments into opportunities for laughter.
“How are you doing?” Horowitz asked his fellow performers during a change of scene. “I’m having a great time!” Young Choi replied, while DiRado-Owens drew laughter when he joked, “I wish I could say the same.” Horowitz then added to the hilarity by offering to wipe out to cheer up his comrade.
Imaginative use of props and sound helped create distinct scenes and emotions. A sheet of fabric was used evocatively in “Rachmaninov,” performed to music by the composer. First the artists took hold of the fabric’s edges and shook it into the air, like children with a parachute in elementary school gym class. Next, they dropped to the floor, rolled their bodies inside the sheet, and pulled it over their heads as they crouched low, for an effect reminiscent of Snow White’s evil queen disguised as the witch with the poison apple. Then, still hidden within the fabric, the trio formed the illusion of a towering, shrouded giant.
The mood shifted from introspective to silly in “Legs” and “Clackers.” In the former, the performers donned red suits with false feet that they controlled with their hands, like puppets, for a fun optical illusion. Facial expressions and gestures added to the humor of “Legs” as the performers feigned surprise at their own movements and mimed playing air guitar on their pretend legs. For “Clackers,” the performers kicked specially modified shoes against cooking pans strapped to their backsides. Instead of music, the performers kicked out percussion and vocalized nonverbal sounds. Silly, innovative, and fun, it showcased Galumpha’s ability to connect and communicate through theater and choreography. This piece also conveyed the company’s range. Equal parts acrobatics, slapstick, and physical theater, Galumpha shines in each of these areas, and its Cannonball Festival show was a reminder of the power of live performance to communicate and connect.
Cannonball Festival events are running at the MAAS Building through October 1, 2021.
What, When, Where
Galumpha. By Galumpha. Pay what you can. September 19, 2021 at the MAAS Building Studio, 1325 N. Randolph Street, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or Fringearts.com.
Proof of Covid vaccination is required, and masks must be worn in the building.
The MAAS Building Studio is accessible only by stairs, and the chairs available for seating are small.
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