Over the years I've had the pleasure of writing in a wide variety of art contexts: both as an independent, and at the service of arts organizations. I offer online reviews starting at $150 for new live work, in person or recorded, as well as a festival dramaturgy - providing critical eye and written synthesis of offerings from instruction, to shows, to the overall curatorial mission. I keep a blog here on this site for reviews, performance updates, and health advocacy.
ARTS REVIEW: Wrapped in the Interstitial: Janine Antoni, Anna Halprin, and Stephen Petronio at the Fabric Worskhop and Museum
Fabric Workshop and Museum
April 21 – July 31, 2016
By Sarah Muehlbauer
Published by Title Magazine
INTERSTICE [in-tur-stis] noun
On view at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, the exhibition Ally features work by collaborators Janine Antoni, Anna Halprin and Stephen Petronio. Facilitated by the process-driven FWM residency, Ally activates the boundaries of form—the interstices—methodically examining the nature of intimacy, of poetry of the body and material. The artists ask: How might the ethereal forces of performance be encountered in the exhibition space where objects have long reigned?
It is not simply a question of material but of energetics—looking at form not as a barrier, but as an opportunity to diminish the space between artist and artist, artist and audience, maker and made.
Centered on four performative acts complemented by a static exhibition, Ally opens with a micro-examination of the experience of experience, turning viewer into third-hand witnesses. Evidence of the first floor’s Rope Dance is not the dance itself, but a wall-sized projection of Halprin’s face as she watches her audience and the dance. The video loops and a gallery guide speaks a narrative description of the event. Her landscape of expression— attention, surprise, tears, and delight—sets up an anticipatory tone with respect to the absent content. It is an initiation to the question: Is there resonance that carries beyond the moment, some energy that infiltrates the space?
FESTIVAL DRAMATURGY: CCAFT V4: Anchored in the past, I commit fully to the present, maintaining a vision of the future we will imagine
By Sarah Muehlbauer
CCAFT 2016 Festival Dramaturge
Published by Anandam Dancetheatre
The Contemporary Circus Arts Festival of Toronto coalesced in year four of its existence, like any social organism, responsive to its environment. 2016 was a year to mine artistic practice guided by an invitation to move deeper into skill and mastery through multi-day intensives. While outwardly it appeared as a contraction—rather, this structure reflected a self-conscious choice by festival producers Leary and Leonard to offer a limited number of classes with greater sensitivity; this was a call to the community to dig deeper roots.
Founded by Anandam Dancetheatre’s Brandy Leary and A Girl in the Sky Production’s Rebecca Leonard, CCAFT was designed to cultivate the Toronto circus arts sense of community while addressing accessibility issues in the educational environment. Leonard and Leary came together as pioneering and established artists who had, at their own risk and expense, traveled widely in pursuit of skills and experiences to accomplish a high-achieving performing arts path. Understanding that this investment was not universally possible (or at least, not perceived to be so…) they gathered world class professionals from their networks to bring training home to their local environment. The first three festivals featured 2-3 hour workshops in a variety of disciplines, introducing a wide set of tools students might use as future creators. Initial years emphasized a sense of grounding in the mechanics of healthy movement as well as rigging, prioritizing responsibility and ensuring the protective environment necessary for growth.
In the years since CCAFT’s launch, the Toronto circus community has grown continually and recognized (...) Continue Reading
INDEPENDENT PUBLICATION: Spring FREEZE
By Sarah Muehlbauer
Published by Waterhorse Press, LLC
DESCRIPTION: A hybric proposition combining journal excerpts, explorations of dreams, and photographic essays, this 112 page book brings intuition back into the artistic process. Through a series of reflections on social issues and the passing of seasons, recollection of personal evens — as real as the reader needs them to be — and an essential connection to the dream world, we are invited to ponder over the essence of the human race, its limitless resilience and the power of the artistic gesture, regardless of its nature, to overcome obstacles.
Where does my allegiance lie?
Home and Country
Beneath my feet
Did you notice?
The forest started to grow
How I disappeared and
My body became leaves
Shades of green and white
Scattered between objects
But not counted among them
More excerpts available through Amazon Preview "Look Inside"
Where Fairy Tale Meets New Circus: Eat Sweet Feet by Le Radiant // Circus Talk
We aspire to represent the beauty and grace of extraordinary skills, but also the imperfections born of ordinary people, who resemble very much the spectator.
— Krin Haglund, Le Radiant
The newest creation Eat Sweet Feet, by the company Le Radiant (The Radiant), Montreal-based originators of The Rendez-Vous and Cirque PROM, tackles issues of childhood and identity through the integration of theatrical creation methods and contemporary circus arts. The show debuted January 19-21, 2017 at Maison de la Culture Mercier following the company’s creation residence and will begin touring Fall 2017 as part of the Montreal Arts Council‘s and TOHU Cité des arts du cirque “Springboard” touring program. Eat Sweet Feet is the company’s first narrative circus and first collaborative creation with a theatrical dramaturge, Sarah Elkashef. Incorporating strong feminine perspectives and an identification with the outsider, its unique presence is testament to the opportunity and challenge of creating interdisciplinary work with maturity and depth. Continue Reading...
Peñasco Theatre Residency: Cultivating Creative Space for Circus Artists in the States // Circus Now
As circus artists in the States, many of us struggle to reconcile our soaring visions with perceived limitations to our options and resources. These constraints are more or less tolerable depending upon our levels of ambition, desired lifestyle, means of employment, and the social and economic obligations that shape our relationships.
One of the gaping holes in our current performance art landscape is arts-funding. For the circus artist, this challenge is exacerbated by the need for a specialized space and sufficient time to create work with the high level of training that circus inherently demands. Not an easy combination. Enter The Five Obstructions. If you haven’t had the benefit of an art-school education or have not yet jumped off the deep-end of self-production, I highly recommend you take a look at this collaborative documentary on creative process by filmmakers Lars Von Trier and Jorgen Leth – a masterful exploration of the generative possibilities of working within constraint. Von Trier sets Leth an artistic task: to remake Leth’s 1967 cinematic gem “The Perfect Human,” constrained by a series of obstacles posed by Von Trier. It’s a fascinating and inspiring example of what happens when you strip away expectation in favor of conceptual and material challenges—and the rich creativity that results. Exert enough atmospheric pressure on carbon and it becomes a diamond.
I have come to realize that plasticity is the essential skill of the American artist and producer; what I honor so much about US practitioners is their ability to address ongoing challenges and make work in the best and the worst of times. Nonetheless, recognizing the need for flexibility in our creativity is just one part of the equation. It is equally important to know what resources are available to support artistic development. Those who provide infrastructure to facilitate the broader growth of artists and industry have taken up a noble cause, one that requires risk and a belief that this growth is possible.
Enter the scene in New Mexico. If you find yourself at a crossroads, between sticking to familiar territory (venues, audiences, routines) or creating ambitious, original work, whether solo or with a group, you might consider taking an artful spirit quest to the mountainous desert of Peñasco, NM. There you will find a small collective of committed visionaries who provide a structure within which your creativity can take shape. Continue Reading...
Anandam Dancetheatre: Evolving Audience and Expectation // LION OR FOX
What are the boundaries of “circus”? Is it defined by its apparatus, its history, a set of forms? Do we accept and demand a certain type of virtuosity or overarching structure? Can circus appreciate small moments on par with spectacle? Could it be framed as an outlook… a mission to transcend human limits?
Anandam Dancetheatre, Toronto’s cutting-edge collective entity under the direction of choreographer Brandy Leary puts the term “circus” to task, creating work that occupies disciplinary grey spaces. Rightfully so, with grace and force the company draws from a deep well of eastern philosophy and movement, earned through Leary’s significant intercontinental immersion in Indian culture. The company’s aerial rope-infused theater resists traditional classification, often assembling large ensembles and a minimalist aesthetic that connects ground and air, while experimenting with technology, light, and sound; site-specificity; and alternative audience engagement.
To understand the heart of this work one has only to look to its linguistic roots. “Anandam” is Sanskrit for “liminal bliss,” but more accurately this is a space prior to awareness, as Leary describes, “Before the brain makes any kind of rational or concrete judgment.” Operating out of Collective Space... Continue Reading
Cinars Biennial Provides Global Connection for Performance Arts Industry // Circus Talk
Krin Haglund: One Woman, Many Talents // Circus Now
Material Concept in Circus Arts // En Piste
Relay Rewind: A Look at the Process of the CCAFT Creation Relay // Anandam Dancetheatre (2015)
If you’d like to meet us here, you can start by walking backward.
On the third day of CCAFT’s Creation Relay, ten artists and two facilitators met at Equinox, the twice-yearly perfect balance of light and dark hours. This alignment highlights the abundance that comes from solar energy along with the anticipation of release. This was the harvest, and the peak of one very densely considered week of artistic creation. We began the morning walking backward on the West Toronto Rail Path, retrograding our practice of forward locomotion. As a group, we felt a fresh acknowledgement of the territories we de-prioritize. As we flocked together, we found a way to follow the path.
I feel hesitant to choose labels for what unfolded here at Collective Space, but I’ll do my best with words to relay a living picture of the “Creation Relay”, an experimental incubator program led by Brandy Leary and Manu Cyr. While circus is a central unifier and common language, we were asked to look directly at it and to explore the periphery of its form.
But where are the boundaries?
It feels entirely appropriate that our days began with a collective circle and an act of giving—to ourselves and to each other in performance practices based in ritual and community. We started on a material level—addressing the body as flesh, fat, and fluid, spirit and psyche. We adopted shamanistic practices to equally question and cull them into existence. We worked to heal ourselves and each other. Through aggregate shaking, rubbing, sharing, stretching, treating the body as sacred, Brandy Leary led us through the subtle body toward the big picture: our impact on energetic, material, and social levels. Continue Reading...
CCAFT 2015: This is a participatory experience // Anandam Dancetheatre
I am a contemporary circus artist practicing out of (your city). I’ve been working quite hard at my (your primary discipline) and finding that I want to express more, but I’m not quite sure what. This might be a silly question. (No, it’s not silly…) What color is the sky? I haven’t seen it lately since I’ve been working so hard at my studio in (your city). I think there’s a scientific reason, but it seems complex. Something to do with light and reflection, materiality, and perhaps…. geography? If you have any insight, please do share.
What brings us together? What do we have to celebrate? What do we have to share?
The 3rd Annual Contemporary Circus Arts Festival of Toronto, co-produced by Anandam Dancetheatre and A Girl in the Sky Productions, draws together local and international artists to perform and create, thinking cross-culturally about the nature of their experience.
This year CCAFT’s special focus is on alternative artistic process, encouraging the exchange of research and discussion by providing community space, free events and subsidized programming. Continue Reading...
Wish for Spirit // Lion or Fox (visual poetry book)
Where Art Belongs // Fluxspace (collective publication)
M a t e r i/e a l i t y // Lion or Fox (graduate thesis)