Gender performance is a balancing act.
This is the only-mildly pretentious thought that popped in my mind while watching the ambitious new local dance/circus/theatre company Steal A Step. Somehow it found purchase in between all the gasps, sighs, laughter and winces as their debut production Kick Before You Drown thrilled me more than any Fringe show in years.
The level of craft here is as high as its aerial gymnastics. Co-Director/Choreographers Joshua Handal & Jessica John have assembled an elite international group of circus artists to craft a sexually charged, panerotic night of circus driven vignettes largely about the lengths we go to be desired, the pressures we face to perform our gender to society’s demands, and the subversive thrill of disrupting those norms.
Kick is about how our perceived limits of gender are meaningless, feminine bodies can be incredibly strong and masculine bodies can be as lithe as flowing water. These themes really hit home for me during a transformational balancing act by the incredibly strong Daniel Patrick, and during two German wheel routines by Elania Dunlap that showed off not only amazing technical skills, but a great and surprising sense of comic timing.
Kick Before You Drown
Produced by Steal a Step
Details and tickets
I hesitate to describe the individual acts by this remarkable ensemble (also including contortionist Celeste Bliss, and aerialist Katie Embser) in too much detail, as part of the thrill of Kick is that Steal a Step has so effectively used Atlas’ giant Lang stage as a delivery method for various circus contraptions. For instance, one erotically charged moment between two lovers is punctuated by the drop of a massive set of aerial silks that hits with the impact of a gunshot.
If they had relied too much on eroticism, Kick could have been one note, but there’s a surprising amount of humor here. Almost like sex and gender are absurd on their face or something. Weird.
All I want out of every Fringe Festival is for at least one production to show me something I’ve never seen before. Kick did so on a routine basis and with impressive technique and style to spare. I can’t wait for what Steal a Step brings us next.
Kick Before You Drown – Direction and Choreography by Joshua Handal & Jessica John; Lighting Design – Jason Brinke; Costume Design: Sarah Muehlbauer; Stage Manager: Erica Foley. Presented by Steal a Step at the Atlas Performing Arts Center through July 14th 2016.