Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Morning Midway: Big Apple Circus Touts New Show: Not Retired Christensen Still Heads Creative Team; New AD Dufresnoy a Shadow Binder?

Despite the long-lasting ballyhoo in recent years over the retirement of founder and artistic director Paul Binder, simultaneously alluding, if ever so subtly, to significant program changes headed by Binder's replacement, Guillaume Dufresnoy, don't look for ground-breaking new showmanship. Not yet.

At least half of the founding regime, that would be Michael Christensen, still appears at the top of the "creative team" masthead. In fact, Christensen is listed as "co-founder and creative director," topping, next in line, Dufresnoy, who, by the way, assisted Binder for a slew of seasons.

This is an exceedingly conservative organization; if you love Big Apple Circus, I'd say bank on more of the same. If you long for an exciting departure, I'd say put your longing in limbo for another season or five.

No doubt, and here I'm speculating for the fun of it, Binder remains powerfully in the background. No doubt, Dufresnoy, whatever strong urges he may feel, will likely be be contained and slipped mandatory cues from others. It's also possible that Dufresnoy has not yet manifested the creative spine to take charge, and thus the continuation of Christensen's input and overriding status. Or the latter, despite earlier reports that he would follow Binder out the door, had grave second thoughts, or never fully intended in the first place to retire in tandem with his founding partner?

Strangest piece of an ill-fitting puzzle is why the company did not play up Christensen's staying on to retain top authority rather than hail the coming of Dufresnoy as signaling a new chapter in the show's history. The masthead, placing Christensen at the top, suggests that he has the yes and the no.

Acts signed for Dance On! conform to the usual BAC pattern of recent years. Dogs and horses, acrobats and aerialists. Barry Lubin's Grandma remains with the company. Other names include Jenny Vidbel, Rob Torres, Girma Tshehai, African Acrobatics International, Andrey Mantchev, Hebei Wujiao Acrobatic Troupe. BAC website as of this posting lacks photos.

This year's opus is being directed by an outsider, Eric Michael Gillet, with dance patterns devised by Peter Pucci, original scoring by Paul Rolnick. The band will play on under the returning baton of regular chart master Rob Slowik.

The Big Apple Circus paradigm, steeped in traditional respect for "classic circus," allows for subtle variations from year to year, the artistic impact ranging from stunning to, more often, stodgy. But the acts are higher draw, the production values overall sparkling. Not knowing if I will even be back there at the right time, still I'm theoretically looking forward.

The creative mix favoring choreography looks promising, with enough outsiders lured into the tent to create a potentially high-energy outing.

Meanwhile, I wonder just where Paul Binder is and how involved he still may be in the wings, issuing facial expressions and sighs of delight or regret, conversing over a cellphone with long timer collaborator,Michael. Unless, that is, the two have gone their separate ways and are no longer speaking.

[Big Apple Circus photos, from top: Michael Christensen; Guillaume Dufresnoy]

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