Five multi-colored rings hang suspended center stage above the hard cement floor of the Sky Candy Aerial Arts Studio.
At the Olympics, the rings represent the five continents involved in the first Olympic Games held in 1896. For the latest show produced by the aerialists and contortionists of Sky Candy, however, the rings become the primary vehicles for new breathtaking routines featuring 15 of the company's impressive members.
The Flame, the second full production by the company to be held in their new state-of-the-art studio on Calles Street, calls to mind the torch-bearing ceremony that begins each Olympic Games, as runners from each country carry the enduring symbol to the location of the season's games.
Throughout the production, The Olympic Flame is personified by multiple costumed performers, evoked by the Greek muses and tasked with inspiring the wrestlers, archers, gymnasts and runners who populate the aerial interpretations of many of your favorite Olympic sports. Watching how they creatively overcome such petty concerns as gravity is half the fun.
Live singers and original pieces from local poets (including Austin Poetry Slam Master and new Sky Candy member Danny Strack) also complement the multi-sensory experience.
Sky Candy founding member Andy Agne conceived of the idea for The Flame over a year ago and has been patiently assembling his qualifying team of performers and producers ever since. With the 2012 Summer Olympics kicking off on July 27, there's absolutely no better time to capitalize on the competitive spirit and spectacle of the Olympics.
"I have been working on the show for quite some time, but things keep coming up and getting pushed to the last minute, of course," says Agne, who is directing the show with a booted cast after a recent misstep off a crash mat in the studio and a resulting multi-fractured foot. (The full story involves the superhuman director, ya know, re-setting the broken bones himself in order to speed up the healing process and get on with the show.) "I just remember to breathe and trust that it will all be okay because it always is."
Minor injuries and sore muscles are part of the game when you're accomplishing some of the demanding stunts these experienced and highly practiced athletes are performing in this — or any — Sky Candy show.
The ease with which they scurry up a two-story rope or balance their full weight on a fellow performer's extended foot is enough to send shivers down my spine, but these experts — many of whom began with no training whatsoever before signing up for Sky Candy classes — make it all look effortless.
To accompany the beauty of the aerial action, Agne invited local composer Chris Humphrey to provide a new score representing the Olympic spirit throughout the decades. Live singers and original pieces from local poets (including Austin Poetry Slam Master and new Sky Candy member Danny Strack) also complement the multi-sensory experience.
In addition to the excitement of the new show, July 15 also marks a significant milestone for Sky Candy as a company: their two-year anniversary. Started in 2010 by a mixed-bag of circus arts enthusiasts with a desire to share and teach their passion to others, they began performing at The Vortex and The ND and teaching classes in various studio spaces.
"We were teaching classes at the Flipside Warehouse with no heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer," remembers founding member Winnie Hsia, laughing. "We would be climbing a ladder to attach apparatuses, and we'd just be dripping with sweat, blinking out the sun. It was less than ideal, of course."
Afterward, the company moved to a warehouse on Tillery Street, which was fantastic until a very loud, very sawdust-y wood shop moved in next door. "They were very nice. But breathing in wood chips all day probably wasn't the best idea for us," smiles Agne.
Their new permanent studio space with regulation rigging, a plethora of apparatuses and stadium-style seating opened at the end of 2011 with a full offering of classes, kids camps and full-scale performances. Their steampunk-inspired show, The Time Machine, was the first full production to christen the space in April.
To celebrate all of their incredible accomplishments the past two years, the Sky Candy team will host a special potluck party to follow the Sunday performances of the The Flame Sunday, July 15. Additionally, they will be hosting an in-house viewing party of the Olympics Opening Ceremony immediately following their final performance of the show on July 27.
The Flame runs July 13 - 27, Fridays - Sundays, at the Sky Candy Studio. Check for times and prices on their ticketing website.