BIFA: Australia’s The Fruits to perform open-air spectacle on tall, swaying poles
Special to the Daily
It’s a show that’s been around the world, appearing at more than 450 festivals in 50 countries. Now, for the first time, Australia’s The Fruits at coming to the High Country as a part of the inaugural Breckenridge International Festival of Arts.
The Fruits at a performing-arts company that delivers open-air acts combining circus, dance and theater — all performed atop 15- to 20-foot tall, flexible poles that bend to and fro like grains of wheat swaying on their stalks.
Founded nearly 20 years ago in Australia, the group now has a U.S.-based contingent that will perform its signature act, “Swoon!,” a 20-minute silent piece in which four costumed performers tell tales of love and loss, joy and freedom against the backdrop of the Ten Mile Range. The storyline is expressed in a range of styles from vaudeville to opera and delivered in a series of nonlinear, love-themed vignettes from high atop “sway poles” of the troupe’s own design.
“They are roughly 15 to 20 feet and are made of wrapped fiberglass, similar to a pole vault,” said Jay Carlon, tour manager. They are secured to the ground in bases weighing more than 400 pounds. Perched on these poles, performers sway close to the ground, where they interact closely with the audience before shooting back up into the sky.
“I tell you, those poles have personalities of their own,” said Angelica Cassimiro, who will perform in Breckenridge. Although the poles are tailored to each performer’s weight and height, “they react quite directly to the weather,” she said. “Hot days, our poles are like noodles; cold days, they are stiff as metal.”
Once atop the poles, performers initiate movement from the core, Cassimiro said.
“Through experience, we learn to control the apparatus — by exploring where pressure and push needs to be applied,” she said. “We figure out at what moments to drive the momentum and what points to give into it and allow the apparatus to do its thing.”
“The visual spectacle of the sway pole apparatus is peculiar and hypnotic,” Carlon said. “Audiences are often left spellbound and inspired.”
“It’s art,” said Robb Woulfe, CEO and president of Breckenridge Creative Arts, or BreckCreate, the nonprofit organization that is putting on the arts festival. “Any moment you are looking at them is framed to be a beautiful image.”
The Fruits’ work has been compared to the Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte. The soundtrack that accompanies the performance meanders from cinematic orchestral music and Italian opera to traditional Croatian sword dance music and contemporary German electro swing, Carlon said.
“The music comes from all over the world, which helps mirror our experiences abroad and performing nonverbally to cultures of all kinds,” he said. The “goal is that the work is not only accessible to all audiences, despite cultural differences, but also enjoyable.”
“It’s very fun and entertaining,” said Woulfe, who presented The Fruits a couple of times at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival in Michigan, which he presided over for a decade before coming to Breckenridge last year. “They sway really low. It’s so cute. You have all these kids out there; the kids put up their hands, and the acrobats touch them. From the first performance to the last, the crowds just grow and grow.”
The Fruits performed their seminal work “Spheres” at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and in 2007, the group came to Colorado as part of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. Performers hail from diverse backgrounds, including dance, acting, diving, juggling, clowning, visual arts, acrobatics and gymnastics, Carlon said. They range in age from early 20s to 50s.
“Most of the U.S.-based team are dancers, and we do love the ground; but, it has been such a great exploration of using our grounded facilities on air,” Cassimiro said. “It takes a certain type of performer to climb the poles and have a great time up there, but you can’t be careless, either. In the end of the day, you are 16 feet above ground.”
The feeling of flying through air is exhilarating and never gets old, she said. There are three requirements for joining The Fruits.
“Can you climb the pole? Do you have a respect for heights? Can you act, dance and captivate a viewer?” Carlon asked. Because it is the only company in the world that uses sway poles, it is almost impossible to train for the audition.
One of the troupe’s goals is to “reactivate public spaces, leaving residual beauty and hope,” Carlon said. “We perform outdoors, and many of our audience members are merely passersby, or even people looking out their window from their apartment or work office.”
This idea is in line with the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts’ vision to animate and transform public spaces with multidisciplinary art that catches locals and visitors by surprise.
There is an element of discovery to a number of the festival events, according to Jenn Cram, director of public programs and engagement for BreckCreate. Among them are the Trail Mix music series that will surprise hikers and bikers with random music fanning through the trees, trailside installations made from natural objects that you wonder whether or not they were intentional and nightly concerts at the Arts District’s Festival Square.
“In Summit County, we tend to make last-minute decisions,” Cram said. With these events, “you can’t help but stumble upon them when you’re on your way and maybe change your plans.”
Australia’s The Fruits will perform three times daily on the Riverwalk Center lawn, starting Thursday, Aug. 13, and running through Sunday, Aug. 16. All performances are open and free to the public. Viewers can catch the shows at the Riverwalk Center or view them from across the river at Blue River Plaza, located at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Main Street.
Presented by Breckenridge Creative Arts, the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts is a celebration of adventure, play and creativity that runs Friday, Aug. 14, through Sunday, Aug. 23. Find more information and a full schedule at breckcreate.org/bifa, or search “BIFA” at http://www.summitdaily.com.
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