Circus and hip-hop aren’t such unlikely bedfellows, especially in the Bay Area. The two art forms — the first decidedly traditional and the other heavy with elements from the street — are part of a burgeoning urban circus arts movement that suggests the disciplines have a lot more in common than you’d first imagine.
Need proof? Just step into the life of a circus performer or hip-hop dancer and see for yourself.
The production “And If We Shadows,” a new work from City Circus, a performance arm of AcroSports, runs through May 25 at the Brava Theater Center. The show offers audiences a peek inside the Bay Area’s circus and hip-hop communities.
Written and directed by Tim Barsky and choreographed by Shannon Gaines of the VauDeVire Society, “And If We Shadows” pulls from the two performance genres to create a hybrid showcase that features a multi-ethnic, multigenerational cast of aerialists, contortionists, beatboxers and breakdancers.
“When you talk about circus in the United States, the main training centers in North America are in San Francisco and Montreal,” Barsky says. “A lot of wonderful stuff comes out of here. It’s really a unique crossroads, and it makes sense that [circus and hip-hop] would start working together naturally here.”
Taking its name from a line in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — “And if we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended” — the show features such notable talent as break-dancers Iron Monkey and Finesse, master aerialist Brett Womack, contortionist Breonna Noack and even a live soundtrack courtesy of beatboxer extraordinaire Carlos “Infinite” Aguirre.
And what, exactly, is the story behind the show’s title?
“You can interpret it to mean that if you didn’t like the show, well, it was all really just an illusion,” says Barsky.
The writer and director doesn’t expect folks to walk away from “And If We Shadows” dissatisfied, though.
He’s quick to point out that whether it’s a contortionist or a break-dancer, the physical body is indeed being pushed to the limit and audiences are sure to see things that they’ve never seen before.
“Circus can be presented in this cotton candy, glittery format,” says Barsky. “Hip-hop is sometimes used as a flavoring agent and that was definitely not a place I wanted to come from. What you’re seeing in the show is a performance from the perspective of a performer intended for the performer’s community. It’s really kind of neat to see [circus and hip-hop] intersect in a way that reflects what’s going on here in the Bay Area.”
IF YOU GO
And If We Shadows
When: 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through May 25
Where: Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St., San Francisco
Info:(415) 665-2276, www.citycircus.org