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 V.23 No.14 | April 3 - 9, 2014 

Arts Feature

Gesturing to All Life

Animales Animados drums up a vivid menagerie of aerialists and musicians

Aerialist Kaeti Frady
photos by Dave Dell
Aerialist Kaeti Frady
Animals often populate the dreams of children. Or so claim the people who study such things. Animales Animados, a fantastical flying menagerie set to music, could very well be a child’s dream. A slightly unhinged, spiky-haired child with highly evolved musical tastes. But in fact, the show hatched and clawed itself from the mind of grown woman and local-pianist-slash-art-musician, Monica Demarco.

Featuring four airborne collaborations between local aerialists and musicians lasting 7 to 10 minutes each, the show’s flier promises an exploration of “the animality of humans and the humanity of animals.”

“What I love about aerial is that you have to get back to that place you were as a kid. Able to spin in a chair for hours and cherry drop off the monkey bars without hesitation or self doubt.”

Monica Demarco

If “aerialist” is a new term for you, think of suspended, gravity-defying dance with trapeze, hoops or wires. No longer confined to the big top, aerialists are finding expression in the genre of contemporary circus arts, a highly conceptual and artistic offshoot of more traditional forms.

Aerialist Kaeti Frady
Aerialist Kaeti Frady
Personal note: I had a trapeze once as a kid, attached to one of those jungle gym complexes in my backyard. Was I an unknowing practitioner of contemporary circus arts? I did have some pretty awesome tricks, but none of them were set to live music, and there was no story or artistic concept involved. Also, one time I fell off and lost consciousness for a bit. So ... probably not.

Demarco describes Animales Animados as a bridging of communities. “There is a solid base for music people in town and circus people in town, but I haven’t seen a lot of collaboration between the two.” Demarco has had a foot in both camps as resident composer for AirDance New Mexico, an aerial performance company in the South Valley.

But unlike a circus or carnival, where animals are trotted out slavishly to do tricks, we are asked to contemplate the human-animal connection; to explore, as Demarco says, the “communication that goes beyond language, that goes beyond human physical gesture, that is an inherent understanding between all beings, all life.”

She first closed the gap herself by trading her music for aerial training. (She’ll be in the air rather than on the ground on Friday.) Then she cherry-picked some of her favorite musicians and aerialists and set them up on “blind art dates,” which ended better than most blind dates with a full two-month collaborative dalliance and joint work of art.

An aerialist may have a vague idea of what the choreography for a particular piece will be, but “when musicians come in, that’s when it goes from being an athletic pursuit to art,” says Demarco.

Hailing from the salty deep to mountain crags to nocturnal forests, the Animales Animados gallery includes Monica Demarco and Bigawatt as The Ram; Tasha Williams and Alonerly as The Fox; Kristen Joy Galbreath, TAHNZZ and Rosie Hutchinson as The Owl; and Heather Alstyne, Kaeti Frady and Mond Tanz performing The Octopus.

If these band names look as foreign as a field guide to exotic fauna, rest assured: Demarco has curated them all. Poached from Albuquerque’s solo female festival, Gatas y Vatas (brainchild of sister Marisa), Demarco chose outsider-art musicians who would each “put their own twist” on the project.

For The Fox, we have the sly and sultry Alonerly on upright bass. Think back-parlor torch songs layered by Boss loop. (There is something animalian in looping itself, like building your own waxen aural hive out of cloned versions of yourself.)

The undulating, beautiful grotesqueries of The Octopus will be captured by Mond Tanz and aerial artists Heather Alstyne and Kaeti Fradyfor a sum total of eight limbs. Now we’re in the fluid, pelagic realm of experimental dream-pop.

Then there’s the silent-winged Owl, a piece that aerialist Kristen Galbreath says explores “darkness, tension and captivity.” She’ll be conjured by the stringed and staticky otherworldly textures of TAHNZZ and Rosie Hutchinson.

Demarco herself performs The Ram, one of the darker, more masculine pieces, to the gritty and lush noise rap of Bigawatt (aka Marisa Demarco). “With my background in martial arts, I like things in aerial that look really powerful.”

Más Kaeti Frady
Más Kaeti Frady

The aerialists in the show emerge from diverse movement backgrounds ranging from martial arts to ballet. Kaeti Frady, who’s studied gymnastics, classical Indian dance, martial arts and physical theater, identifies the main conundrum of aerial work as “moving beyond the achievement of tying together a set of impressive tricks and using that boundless physicality to tell a story or evoke a mood that is unforgettable to your audience.”

Demarco adds, “What I love about aerial is that you have to get back to that place you were as a kid. Able to spin in a chair for hours and cherry drop off the monkey bars without hesitation or self doubt.”

With such biodiversity of musicians and aerialists, it’s safe to say that each piece will be beautifully textured and bizarrea feral, looking-glass Cirque du Soleil.

And don’t expect a staid concert hall atmosphere. “The performance takes up the entire space,” Demarco says, “so coming into the room will be like walking onto a busy stage.” Musicians will play between acts, and in typical carnival fashion, there will be food.

But unlike a circus or carnival, where animals are trotted out slavishly to do tricks, we are asked to contemplate the human-animal connection; to explore, as Demarco says, the “communication that goes beyond language, that goes beyond human physical gesture, that is an inherent understanding between all beings, all life.”

Maybe that's something we knew once but unlearned as adults.

Animales Animados

Saturday, April 5, 7:30pm

Kosmos
(1715 Fifth Street NW)
bit.ly/anianimados
Tickets: $7 (cards accepted)
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    Animales Animados
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