Aerial Explosions

Dance festival gets above it all

FRI, 8/8

Are they dancers? Are they circus performers? Are they bonkers? Nancy Smith, organizer of Boulder's Aerial Dance Festival, says all of the above assertions are true of her artists. And the unique festival, which opens tonight, has gathered eight soaring groups from across the country and abroad for one performance.

"Nobody else is crazy enough to do it," she says.

Aerial dancing will keep viewers' heads spinning.
Aerial dancing will keep viewers' heads spinning.
Comics find visibility as Invisible Men.
Comics find visibility as Invisible Men.
Hang loose at Our Effin' Show.
Hang loose at Our Effin' Show.
Christopher Smith

Each group will perform a work that uses a different apparatus. Smith's own Boulder-based company, Frequent Flyers Productions, will be working with newly invented devices: custom-made thirteen-foot ladders. In the piece, the dancers will move between the ladders and suspended ropes. Berkley's Terry Sendgraff, an aerial-dance pioneer and creator of a special low-flying trapeze that allows entertainers to not only swing but spin, will bring her company to the festival. Other groups, which hail from Argentina, Australia and across the U.S., will use stilts, bungees, ropes and suspended fabrics. Smith compares trying to rig all of the different contraptions in one venue to "insanity."

Although most aerial dancers and choreographers have backgrounds in modern dance, aerial dance also draws techniques from the circus tradition. Maybe that's why there's such hot debate about whether this is an art or spectacle. But Smith, who settles on the label "artistic entertainment," says the fusion helps to pull in audiences from both sides of the coin. Although high-flying hoofing is a young discipline, audiences are growing, thanks in part to the popularity of Cirque du Soleil, which also fuses art and entertainment while defying gravity.

The technique is rooted in natural movements like climbing and swinging. "It's all those things I loved as a child," says Smith.

Although some audience members might experience slight vertigo just watching the performers, Smith says they get used to the height. And although it may not look like it, safety is a huge part of their practice.

The show will be performed at 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. Sunday, at Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts Dance Space, 2590 Walnut Street. Tickets, $21, are available online at www.frequentflyers.org, or by cash or check only at the door. For more information, call 303-245-8272. -- Jonelle Wilkinson Seitz

Invisible Men are seen in magic and comedy
SAT, 8/9

Kenneth Lightfoot says making people smile is no laughing matter. The popular Pearl Street Mall magician was once a teenage card shark who aspired to be a professional gambler, but he found his mojo entertaining visitors at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf more than two decades ago. Lightfoot says his Marx Brothers-like street performance is his life's essence. "It's a balance," he explains. "It's my whole existence; if I didn't perform, I wouldn't exist."

Lightfoot has teamed up with fellow performer Eric Anderson in Invisible Men, which shows at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow night at Chautauqua Auditorium. He plans an amusing magic and mind-reading show with a little public pickpocketing thrown in for good humor. The relationship of Invisible Men is like having motivational guru Anthony Robbins on stage with Jerry Lewis, Lightfoot says; it's a "yin-yang" staged tension between Anderson's bold antics and his own "monkey-wrench approach to illusions."

Invisible Men takes the duo's street feats inside for a full-fledged choreographed performance, but this is not some hybrid of Buskerfest, and whatever you do, don't call them "buskers." "It's actually an English term adopted from the street commotion," says Lightfoot. "I don't know any American street performers who call themselves a 'busker.'"

This isn't David Copperfield, either. "This show is not just your normal glitzy Vegas show, where elephants disappear and a week later it's forgotten," says Lightfoot. "The name of the show is Invisible Men because we are becoming invisible to outside forces that are ignoring us. Through a lot of humor, we're going to get people to think."

The laughter rises with the curtain at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder. For tickets, $15, go to www.chautauqua.com or call 303-440-7666. -- Kity Ironton

Manly Comedy
FRI, 8/8

Between The Man Show and Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn,fans of Comedy Central's late-night lineup are used to a high dose of testosterone and attitude. Five local comedians want to bring that raucous atmosphere to Denver with tonight's Our Effin¹ Show. "We thought, what would happen if we put five guys on one stage, with no rules and lots of beer -- absolutely anything goes," explains co-creator Chuck Rahill. "It's going to be guys being guys, and it's going to be wild and crazy."

Premiering tonight at 8 p.m. at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, Our Effin' Show features Rahill and fellow co-creator Scott Foster, along with Ed McBride, Clyde Saks and Rudy Gomez. "It's a very loose format; we'll have parody songs, some standup, audience participation, sketch comedy," says Rahill, who hopes to make Our Effin' Showa monthly event. "And we're going to try and be extremely current and relevant; like I'm sure Kobe Bryant's name will come up."

Tickets cost $8 and can be purchased by calling the Bug at 303-477-9984. "You never know what's going to happen," says Rahill. "There are no rules." -- Julie Dunn

Play Time
Take a dip in the local talent pool
FRI, 8/8

In a small pool, it would seem to help if the fish banded together. Perhaps that's why so many of Denver's independent theater ensembles are utilizing staged readings, repertory productions and mini-festivals to highlight work by local playwrights. Now we can add the Theatre Group to that hometown-friendly pond: The company will finish the summer with an unprecedented New Playwright Series, a run featuring two plays in repertory by Theatre Group friends Josh Hartwell and Melissa Lucero McCarl. It's a new format for TG, says spokeswoman Shelly Bordas, but a hard one to pass up for two reasons: One, it provides a rare opportunity for local talent, and two, these two particular scripts "were just so good." Decide for yourself: Hartwell's Reaching for Comfort, which ties two lonely people together in the era of John Lennon's murder, plays tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., and McCarl's Painted Bread, a life of artist Frida Kahlo interpreted through images from her paintings, opens next weekend at Theatre on Broadway, 13 South Broadway; performances continue through September 14. Admission is $10 ($20 for both); call 303-777-3292 or log on to www.theatregroup.org for a complete schedule. -- Susan Froyd

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