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Breckenridge International Festival of Arts comes back to town following pandemic hiatus

Headliner Pilobolus combines movement, music for 10-day event

Modern dance company Pilobolus is celebrating its 50th anniversary of touring with shows around the world. Yet unlike regular traveling performances that are a day or two, it will be staying in residency for 10 days for the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts.
Ben McKeown/Pilobolus

The wait is over. The Breckenridge International Festival of Arts is returning for the first time since 2019. The 10-day festival by Breckenridge Creative Arts happens from Friday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 21, and includes multiple mediums such as music, dance and sculpture that touch on overarching themes of the environment and mountain life.

Free and ticketed performances, exhibitions, workshops and more are scheduled for indoor and outdoors venues throughout Breckenridge. The Old Masonic Hall, 136 S. Main St., will be one hub with free art. It features kinetic “mirrors” made of wood and other materials called “Reflections” by New York–based artist Daniel Rozin. On view daily through Sept. 4, the work uses a camera to capture people’s likeness. 

“Altered Ground” by clay artist and geologist Steve Hilton, is on view daily through Aug. 28. The piece uses unfired clay marbles to tell a story about Breckenridge’s mining history. Visitors are encouraged to interact with it and roll the marbles in the ongoing artwork.



Just outside on the Ride Street square in the Arts District campus is a daily creative gathering place that will have artist demonstrations and talks for all ages. It includes a workspace for the Precious Plastic initiative where people can turn in clean, label-free Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 6 plastics that will then be made into art.

Located throughout Breckenridge for the duration of the festival is “We Are the Asteroid,” a series of LED highway message boards with environmental messages by artist Justin Brice. Art also intersects with nature in the returning Trail Mix series. Calder Kamin’s “Once Upon a Time in the Future” unicorn sculpture of recycled plastic is at Moonstone Trail and Ben Roth’s “Daddy Long Legs” is on the Iowa Hill Trail. Beethoven’s late string quartets slowed down by the Tank Center for Sonic Arts will play from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, through Thursday, Aug. 18, At the Illinois Creek Trail.



If You Go

What: Breckenridge International Festival of Arts

When: Aug. 12-21

Where: Multiple locations throughout Breckenridge

Visit BreckCreate.org/BIFA for a full schedule of events and to get tickets to select performances.

One way to see all of the art is to take the Main Street Trolley or the Breck Free Ride’s Gray Route. The buses will have local singer-songwriters: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. daily for the trolley, and 9-11 a.m. Fridays through Sundays for the Gray Route. 

On the subject of transportation, families are welcome to skate, scoot or ride to the Arts District campus for an outdoor screening of “Mia and the Migoo” on the AirStage at 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21. The event is free but requires advanced registration and encourages a $10 donation.

Happening in tandem with the arts festival is the Revolution Music Series, previously called the Breckenridge Music Festival. Artistic Director Steven Schick and musicians from the National Repertory Orchestra return for a variety of concerts. The series begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at the Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., and it highlights one of Rozin’s wooden mirrors on stage. While that event is free with a $50 suggested donation per party, other mirror-centric performances are set for 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday at the Riverwalk for $10. Those tickets include one pour of beer or wine and attendees must be over 21.

For something a little mellower, a sonic meditation will be offered at 8 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Riverwalk. The class features Schick on percussion, and it has a suggested donation of $10. Then another orchestral concert will happen at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, featuring works by composers like Stravinsky and Debussy.

Connecticut-based Pilobolus is known for various styles of dance, but particularly its work with shadows. Its performances are just one aspect of the returning Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, which also features sculpture, live music and more.
John Kane/Pilobolus

50 years of dance

Closing out the Revolution Music Series is a performance at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, that features dance company Pilobolus. However, Pilobolus is actually in residence for the entire festival, bringing their modern dance formats to audiences in various ways.

The group is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It formed when a cross-country skier, fencer and pole vaulter of different majors took a dance class at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1971. The name comes from a phototropic fungus that spreads its spores in rapid speed, sticking to whatever it lands on.

According to Renée Jaworski, one of the two artistic directors of Pilobolus, the company stayed in the Northeast, specifically rural Connecticut, because the dancers can connect with nature, explore trails and take things a slower pace than a more hectic city may demand.

But that doesn’t mean Pilobolus isn’t creatively pushing boundaries. Jaworski said a reason for their longevity is because of the ability to adapt like the namesake fungus, which is known for surviving animal digestion and finding light.

Fancy Fungus

Pilobolus performances

What: UP! The Umbrella Project

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13.

Where: Riverwalk Center lawn, 150 W. Adams Ave.

Cost: Free. Register online at BreckCreate.org.

 

What: Workshops

When: 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 19 and 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

Where: Riverwalk Center lawn, 150 W. Adams Ave.

Cost: Free.

 

What: Revolution Music Series — By Starlight

When: 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19

Where: Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave.

Cost: Free. Register online at BreckCreate.org.

 

What: ‘BIG FIVE-OH!’

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20

Where: Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave.

Cost: $25 to $45. Visit BreckCreate.org to purchase.

She said they have principles and styles, but they’re ready to pivot and explore, whether that be sticking themselves in a trunk of a car, creating shadow art, or, their most recent endeavor, working with Native American storyteller Darlene Kascak of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

“In that same way, we’re constantly searching for the light, for the new ideas,” Jaworski said. “We’re leaning and twisting and bending ourselves and reading new things and thinking about new things with new people.”

Over the years, Pilobolus has performed around the world and places such as the Academy Awards, the Olympics, the Parthenon. The company has also done digital works, like the music video for OK Go’s song “All Is Not Lost.” During the pandemic, Pilobolus performed a sort of “art safari” where guests saw the dancers while driving in their cars. 

Breckenridge audiences can first see the work of Pilobolus Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13, with its Umbrella Project. The interactive event has people using light-up umbrellas on the Riverwalk lawn to create shapes that are then projected onto a screen. The lawn will also be the home of four, free-movement workshops. Attendees of all ages and experience levels can learn to improve balance and fitness or spelling the alphabet with one’s body.

When Pilobolus performs for the Revolution Music Series, it will be to local Leon Joseph Littlebird’s music. Schick actually commissioned Littlebird to write for the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus — of which Schick is the music director — but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the premiere. Called “When Echoes Speak,” the composition is a 13-minute piece that took ideas from three of Littlebird’s songs and has him play four different flutes, as well as some ancient instruments like bone whistles and rattles.

“It came out so beautiful,” Littlebird said, adding that he hopes to perform it in other cities. “Just rehearsing for it has been a joy. This is a musical dream come true for me. This is really a highlight for my career.”

Finally, in celebration of the organization’s 50th anniversary, Pilobolus will perform their “BIG FIVE-OH!” show at the Riverwalk Center on Saturday, Aug. 20. It will be similar to other touring productions in that it highlights select routines from the decades, yet there is also a new element.

In collaboration with Kascak, Pilobolus has made a new piece called “Ballad” that is a story about her life, hope and Native American myth. The Breckenridge performance will be its second showing on tour and Jaworski, who has been with the company since 2000, is glad to share a new work.

“After three years of not being able to create a piece for stage because of COVID, this is the very first one for us so we’re very excited about it,” Jaworski said.

Local musician Leon Joseph Littlebird will see his music come to life in the Revolution Music Series with the National Repertory Orchestra and choreography by dance company Pilobolus. The music series is happening concurrently with Breckenridge International Festival of Arts.
Tom Fricke/Courtesy photo

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