The Fractal Tribe’s “Sub Rosa” Wows and Satisfies

The Fractal Tribe’s “Sub Rosa” Wows and Satisfies
October 11, 2015 Jane E. Werle
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Rethink your idea of circus. Here’s why. A hot bunch of serious Front Range freaks is bringing it in a real way. Physicality and athleticism reign, while intense partnership makes difficult and dangerous choreography viable. Aerial and acrobatic dance combined with pure showmanship and a variety of conceptual dramatic story elements result in an impressive, unusual and entertaining performance package.

Gasps, oohs, and frequent whoops rose from the audience as the Fractal Tribe made magic onstage at the Dairy Center for the Arts during the 2015 Boulder International Fringe Festival. Picture-taking was encouraged by the Tribe in a brief pre-show address, as long as it could be executed silently and without flash “like a ninja.” Photo-worthy moments abounded; indeed, it was often difficult to choose whom or what to watch as a kind of visual confusion was created by the complex layering of narrative elements and stunning aerial work.

Feats of balance, physical power, and trust occured hard and fast. Perhaps the audience must function as an interconnected organism, similar to how the Tribe functions as parts and a whole. Without hundreds of eyes (and numerous devices) on the job, how could the viewers appreciate all there is too see?

I was repeatedly struck by what I would consider the Tribe’s greatest strength: the connection and communication between members. The body-oriented nature of the work necessitates a high degree of self-awareness, which extends to awareness of awareness and consideration of others in the group, which is then taken further to include community at large. The Tribe is committed to raising arts exposure and accessibility.

As a non-technician, I could only guess at the details of the obviously extensive apparatus set-ups that underlay much of the aerial and trapeze choreography. Performers’ bodies also constituted apparatus: flexed feet took the place of a trapeze bar and just caught a plummeting person under the arms, bent backs acted as spontaneous balance beams, and single hands caught the entire weight of whirling partners.

It was clear that each climactic move or pose was a risk every time. Every element has to be perfect, or everything could go terribly wrong. In one intense real-time sequence, some members manipulated lengths of silks or rope, thus controlling the movements of a large, central hanging platform from different directions. With mighty pulls and coordinated releases, they enabled the rise, fall, and spin of the centerpiece as the dancers within continued their own bewildering acrobatic antics.

It occurred to me that this push-and-pull aspect of apparatus-enabled movement applies thematically– and perhaps generally– as well. It’s all about resistance and reaction, tension and release. Truly, do not miss your chance to let go at a Fractal Tribe production. Support these hardworking, dedicated, sexy artists in a win-win situation!


Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.

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