Photo via Spoleto Festival USA.

The physical theater and acrobatic troupe Gravity and Other Myths is back at Spoleto Festival USA with a dazzling production of its new show, “Out of Chaos.” 

Gravity’s last production, “Backbone,” presented a story about strength and resilience. This year’s performances will center around the myriad forces, large and small, that make a person who they are, one cohesive being created out of the chaos around them.

“Each one of our works tends to be a kind of provocation from the last thing we made,” said Darcy Grant, the “Out of Chaos” director. “I think the nature of creative development is that you open a lot more doors than you eventually walk down. Through exploring strength and resilience in Backbone, we started investigating and exploring a lot more of the outside factors – the world and the people around you and bigger, more cosmic things like the universe and creation.”

The troupe is well known for creative approaches to storytelling and movement on stage, with all of it influenced by modern dance and even elements of acrobatics. Grant has been hard at work with the team crafting an impressive visual experience, one meant to be both provocative and vulnerable for people on and off the stage.

“Ultimately, where we wanted to arrive at the end of the piece was just how improbable it is for every single person who is sitting in that theater to have ended up in that room together, at the same moment, experiencing a show that is about that – the awe of existence,” said Grant. 

While the story and themes may not be as straightforward as those in more traditional theater, the troupe’s signature style shows off much of the potential of the physical limits of the human body, and the storytelling possibilities in this type of movement-centric performance.

“It’s very much contemporary circus acrobatics, if I had to categorize it,” said Bruce Hawley, president of the Circus Historical Society. “It’s storytelling through acrobatics, not your typical kind of thing, and it really lends itself to this type of setting. It’s telling a story with human bodies.”

Alongside the challenges that already exist in movement theater storytelling, “Out of Chaos” sets itself another unique challenge: it uses no stagelamps, only wireless handheld light sources. This means the troupe must plan for the position and movement of each light in every moment.

“While it sounds like a sort of cool and simple concept, with about 20 lights in it became incredibly complicated,” said Grant. “That ambition was really, really big and possibly the hardest creation I’ve ever done was making ‘Out of Chaos.’”

Along with its inventive lighting and choreography, “Out of Chaos” brings something entirely different from other Gravity and Other Myths productions, with the performers talking more than in any previous shows. Rather than deliver lines, the performers add in their own lines about what’s going on for them, be it at home, on stage, or even inside their bodies at that moment.

“It’s an incredibly revealing show as a performer as well,” Grant said. “Because as a performer, you’ve really got to share where you’re at.”

“Out of Chaos” is far from the typical on-stage performance, but it’s promising to be one of the most evocative pieces at Spoleto USA. With incredible talent both on and off the stage, it’s not something to be missed.

IF YOU PLAN TO GO: Shows are at Festival Hall at 5 p.m. June 7; 7:30 p.m. June 8; 8 p.m. June 9; 3 p.m. June 10; and 2 p.m. June 11.  Tickets are $58 to $98.  

C.M. McCambridge is an arts graduate student at Syracuse University.

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