The art of partnered acrobatics requires coordination, cooperation and trust – ideas that similarly comprise a community.
In its latest performance, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, a local movement-based performing arts ensemble, is reprising its founding production, “Communitas,” using gymnastic feats with original electronic and instrumental-based music to explore the fundamentals of a society in which all members are equal.
For the first time in five years, the company, which features acrobats, storytelling, dance and physicality, is presenting a re-imagined “Communitas: Five Years Later,” encompassing “changed bodies in a changed world.”
The show, running through May 25 at Funicular Station with an encore presentation at Penn Treaty Park on May 26, features two South Philly residents, including performing artist and Pennsport resident Lauren Johns and musician and Passyunk Square resident Jordan McCree.
While this is both artists’ first time contributing to “Communitas,” the South Philly residents have found their own creative individualities in the revised production.
“We came together in a couple different forms,” Johns said. “This show Communitas is a representation of an unstructured society, which is really how Almanac started. We’re all here. We all hold different jobs, depending on what the project currently is.”
Johns studied dance at the University of the Arts before joining Almanac Dance Circus Theatre as a company member three years ago.
She’s one of the handfuls of “Communitas” artists bringing their own personal and professional experiences to collaborate on this evolving piece, which very much echoes the themes of the show.
“Especially partner acrobatics, no matter how simple or how difficult a trick is, it will not be successful unless both people are partaking equally, and that’s a quite literal show of holding each other up and being there for each other,” Johns said. “It’s physicalizing a relationship that we have at this company.”
Multi-instrumentalist McCree, a drummer for local jazz/hip-hop band Ill Doots, began creating compositions for local theater productions after also graduating from the University of the Arts.
For the musician, who has worked with various companies, including the Philadelphia Theatre Company and the Wilma Theater, this is the first time he’s composed for an acrobatic show.
“Everything I’ve been a part of has more so been on the ground,” he said. “Although I’m not necessarily speaking as physical as they are, I’m hopefully providing and creating a sonic environment for them to live in and support what they’re doing physically.”
As the dancers reworked the second life of this work, including translating parts of the show that featured two men to featuring two women, McCree would often flush out music ideas as the company rehearsed.
He describes the final product as genre-less, fusing electronic music with piano, vocals and drums. The music, McCree says, offers support to the physical, demanding and beautiful shapes the dancers are creating with their bodies.
“The show itself – the vocabulary of what we do is so vast because the company is made up of actors and acrobats and dancers,” Johns said. “And in the same way that Jordan has all of these varying styles of music inside of him, it kind of like spans across so many different things.”
While most of the run will take place at Funicular Station in Germantown, the final show will be featured outdoors at Penn Treaty Park, 1301 N. Beach St.
McCree and Johns say this final encore, in some ways, most aligns with the theme of the show and even the company’s mission, as Almanac Dance Circus Theatre strives to perform community outreach.
In both versions of the show, though, audiences will be within a few feet of the spectacle, as the performers describe the experience as being executed genuinely, rather than performatively.
“Feeling a closeness here to the people that you’re performing with is a lot better when it’s in an intimate place,” McCree said.
While they want to spread awareness of Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, the performers intend for audiences to take away a larger understanding of humanity.
“To see our relationship and to see people equitably,” Johns said. “To see each, to see humanity with an even eye that’s going to inspire empathy for others – is something that I take away from this piece.”
To learn more about the show, visit www.thealmanac.us/upcoming/2019/3/17/communitas-5-years-later.