Quixotic Fusion
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Pioneering performance art in KC

By Laura Vernaci Mon, Sep 28, 2009

Quixotic has succeeded in exploring new dimensions of dance, music and design, but what really made that first performance unique was that it was stripped of all distractions. There were no chairs, no fancy ceilings, no stuffy surroundings. It was literally a blank canvas that was transformed before the spectators' eyes.
Pioneering performance art in KC

Innovation. Collaboration. Dedication.

For Co-Founder and Artistic Director Anthony Magliano these three words embody Quixotic Performance Fusion. Fellow Artistic Director Mica Thomas would add integration to the list. "The integration between all the different elements of the group - that's key," Thomas said.

Magliano, a musician and graphic designer, explored the idea of incorporating art forms for a long time before acting on it. He and his wife Kimberly Cowen, a professional ballerina with the Kansas City Ballet, talked about the possibility of creating a performance that would equally feature various artistic elements.

Co-founder and Artistic Director Tony Magliano

"Kim introduced me to Keelan Whitmore from the Kansas City Ballet, who really into wanting to explore and experiment with choreography," Magliano said. "So we got together and basically talked about collaborating and doing something that is pretty unique to dance and utilizing the local talent here - local dancers, local lighting people, costume designers, musicians and composers."

The show that developed out of this concept laid foundation for the future company.

Quixotic's debut was held at the Boley Art Gallery and was sponsored by the Urban Culture Project, an extension of the Charlotte Street Foundation. The performers succeeded in exploring new dimensions of dance, music and design, but what really made the performance unique is that it was stripped of any distractions. There were no chairs, no fancy ceilings, no stuffy surroundings. It was literally a blank canvas that was transformed before the spectators' eyes.

"The whole goal was for everything under that roof to be all original, all live and experimental," Magliano said.

The co-founders did not predict that Quixotic would exist after the weekend performances were over, but their experiment turned out to be hugely successful. "What happened was the response went over really well," Magliano said. "There was a lot of people that showed up and everyone was asking, 'When are you doing the next one?"

They were excited to be received so well but knew they would need some time to brainstorm the workings of another event. They realized that to continue producing such complex, high-quality shows it would require additional funds, resources and planning.

First, they talked. To friends, to family and to local organizations. They attracted enough people and businesses to begin receiving donations and finding other artists interested in participating. This included Thomas who joined Quixotic's artistic team in the second year, primarily as a lighting designer.

Their second show was the following summer - and was equally successful. But it was in the third year that Thomas and Magliano said they really saw the company begin to transform into a single, cohesive unit.

Instead of showcasing a compilation of short, separated segments, the various artists focused on constructing a story in which each section and each element intertwined to create a complete experience. This perspective became Quixotic's objective.

"We're not just doing a dance performance, we're not just doing a show," Magliano said. "We like to say we're creating experiences for people. We want to step it up to that next level where when people leave, they're inspired all around."

The company's mission fueled Magliano and Thomas to test their limits and push themselves to discover fresh and modern ways to fashion experiences and fuse each aspect. "We wanted to figure out a way to step it up, to make it even more of a multi-sensory experience," Magliano said.

The directors explored new software programs, performance spaces, cutting-edge props and additional lighting techniques. They also hired their first permanent dancer, Laura Jones.

Laura Jones

Jones, who has been with the company for more than a year now, came across Quixotic's website while looking for local dance companies. With a strong interest and background in contemporary dance, she was drawn to the company's unique aesthetic. "Its fun exploring all the different kinds of movement and creating completely new ballets instead of just bringing back old stuff," Jones said.

But before she had the chance to pursue the opportunity, Magliano heard about Jones from a mutual friend and called her to come audition.

"I was really excited about it," Jones said. "We met and he showed me some video footage and photographs from shows they had done, and I was amazed by what they could do - the company - having been around for just a short time." It did not take Jones long to find her niche in the group. She has become a main image for Quixotic and also has broadened her performance résumé to include aerial work. "It was frustrating at first because there are so many variables in aerial work and I felt like I would never get it," she said.

Now, Jones loves the thrill she gets from the aerial experience, but said the rehearsal process for it is complex, strenuous and dangerous if not done correctly. She performed an aerial section in Quixotic's Lux Esalare show in June where she was attached to a rope on stage and cast member Matt Bennett was attached to the other end of the rope in the wings.

"It was a little scary at times just because the timing had to be perfect because Matt had to go down when I went up and vice versa," she said. "But I learned to trust him a lot." Cooperation and coordination are essential parts of the production process or else the final outcome will not warrant a completely coherent experience.

"I personally think that Quixotic is a group, a multi-disciplinary group, where what's exciting and why it is important is it gives a true opportunity for multiple artists to work together and nothing is more important than the next," Magliano said.

This rare perspective is what truly separates Quixotic from most dance companies who rehearse by themselves and do not see the various elements come together until tech week. With Quixotic, dancers are working with the composers who are collaborating with the lighting designers who work side by side with the graphic designers who team up with the scenic designers who also conceptualize with the costume designers. Each artist has the opportunity to contribute to the other's success and in the meantime learn to respect each element for what it has to offer.

With the wide range of art forms one can experience in a single show, Quixotic has virtually no limit to who they can attract. "We appeal to the 18-year-old college girl as much as we do to the 60-year-old arts lover," Magliano said. This infinite, mass appeal allows the company to constantly market their mission to new groups of people. Someone might show up for the music but leave with a greater appreciation and interest for dance or fashion.

Magliano and Thomas hope that their edgy commercial appeal will help in their most recent aspiration for the company - to become a full-time, internationally recognized company. "The goal is to take what we've been working on for the last three years ... and take it outside of Kansas City and gain regional and national and international audiences," Magliano said.

A new show with big names is already in the works. Along with their local, corps team, Quixotic plans on touring New York and Boston next August and will feature renowned contemporary dance couple Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk. Until then they will continue to give back to the city that has helped them get to where they are today.

"Kansas City has really helped us out," Magliano said. "It would have been really, really hard to do a project like this somewhere else. And I think the excitement that nothing else like what we do is going on in Kansas City has helped us to grow here." - kcmetropolis.org & written by: Laura Vernaci


Quixotic: "Surface" walks on walls

Tue, Sep 15, 2009

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The word is out. Quixotic Fusion doesn't put on shows or give performances, they stage events. So naturally these innovative and daring generative artists, led by artistic directors Anthony Magliano and Mica Thomas, would tackle something like this.
Quixotic: "Surface" walks on walls

The word is out. Quixotic Fusion doesn't put on shows or give performances, they stage events. So naturally these innovative and daring generative artists, led by artistic directors Anthony Magliano and Mica Thomas, would tackle something like this.

Rappelling down the sheer face of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Spinning, suspended in midair, backlit by the illuminated glass exterior of the Bloch Building. Installing a giant, four-legged aerial hammock that fit right in with the stone and metal denizens of the Sculpture Park.

On Saturday evening, September 12th, over three thousand people brought their blankets and folding chairs and camped out on the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins to see the latest offering from the multi-disciplined art collective, a site-specific installation dubbed "Surface."

As I sifted through the crowd, I caught a word with Rick Willoughby, Quixotic's bassist and one of its composers. "Sit by 'The Thinker," he advised. "You'll catch all three perspectives."

Staged in the round, the audience was treated to a performance art display that was true to its theme, catering to and utilizing the physical surfaces and features of the Nelson-Atkins grounds.

Rappelling ropes hung down from the roof of the Nelson and pulleys stretched taut in front of the Bloch Building, lending an air of precarious anticipation-the potential for adrenaline and danger-that has become a trademark of Quixotic performances.

After the opening strains of a pretty string prelude, "Cartography," the ensemble marched down the museum steps in an impressionist promenade wearing barely-there techno-glam costumes accentuating the sleek lines and sinew of each dancer.

Throughout the evening, Quixotic highlighted the vast variety of styles and skills in their arsenal. The aerial hammock's single, translucent piece of fabric held its dancer like a cocoon womb and offered up a traditional aerial fabrics performance. A steel jungle gym positioned in front of the band gave center stage to contortionism, gymnastics, and stylish modern dance.

The band composed an original soundtrack for "Surface" that was consistently intriguing, reminiscent of the engaging sonic landscapes of artists such as Sigur Ros, Bjork, and Kid A-era Radiohead. Shane Borth's expressive violin work was featured throughout and Laura Scarborough's ethereal vocals were particularly highlighted.

Truly a collaborative effort, each band member contributed compositions for "Surface." Rick Willoughby cooked up an electro-funk groove to the frenzied ensemble piece, "Simple Thoughts."

Brandon Draper and Scarborough penned "All We Know," a piece that, sans dancers, showcased the musical talent of the group. Surrounded by stone and trees, Scarborough showcased her rich vibrato, singing a haunting song that strengthened the terrestrial theme of the evening. Laurel Morgan contributed a gorgeous violin solo.

The song best demonstrated the distinct identity of this performance, creating a much more organic, almost arboreal, atmosphere that distinguished itself from the stark and kinetic electronic rock of Quixotic's "Lux Esalare."

Quixotic's "Surface" at the Nelson-Atkins. Photo by Maria Gonzalez

About forty minutes into the production, Chelsea Teel-Wilcox was flown up a pulley apparatus positioned in front of the Bloch Building. While the evening had been consistently enjoyable to this point, this marked the beginning of the moment we'd all been waiting for. Teel-Wilcox delivered with her self-choreographed "Renew," a dizzying display of aerial spinning and romantic suspension.

Soon afterward, the focus shifted to the face of the Nelson, a stone canvas for the most visually-arresting pieces of the evening. A video projection splashed aggressively across the surface of the building like a chemical mix of monochromatic Mondrian and Tetris on amphetamines.

Whetting the audience's appetite for the impending aerial display, the cinematic visuals softened into an aurora borealis night sky in the soundscape, "Paper Cranes," before transforming into almost mathematic waveforms for the finale, "Awakenings."

Scuttling down the side of the building, at first only visible due to the bioluminescent insect wings on their backs, Amanda Artigas and Jessie Fouts, flew through a series of runs, leaps, and acrobatics choreographed by E.J. Reinagel that at times made me wonder if they were truly on level ground and I was fastened to a grassy, earthen wall. Sunbursts exploded around the dancers, synchronized to Brandon Draper's tribal drumming and the band's insistent soundtrack.

It was the culminating act of sensory beauty that enveloped the audience in a fitting artistic statement: Quixotic used the surroundings at the Nelson-Atkins museum like sculptor's clay, raking away at the surface to reveal the art underneath. - kcmetropolis.org & Written by: Vi Tran


Saturday, September 12, 2009
*Quixotic: Surface* Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Quixotic Fusion continued to produce one of the most mesmerizing things I have ever seen. I heard that the count was over 4,000 of people that attended Quixotic's latest performance, Surface, a partnership with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The grand artistic scale of this performance cannot be summarized or described in a few words; you just would of had to seen it in person to experience it's spell. I will attempt to describe my experience and share with you a few pictures from my view that night.

First of all, it was a beautiful September evening in Kansas City. My daughter and I had packed up a picnic and got to the Museum about 2 hours before the performance started. The lawn was already filling up with people and their lawn chairs! It was so exciting to see Kansas Citians come out in droves to support this up and coming performance group that started right here in KC, along with our city's fabulous art museum, the Nelson-Atkins.

There was a stage directly in front of the Bloch Building where the musicians performed. The music, which was composed specifically for this performance, was beautiful. Unique, flowing, rhythmic, and just plain mesmerizing. A concert of just the live music would of been Well worth coming to see. But a Quixotic Performance never satisfies just one artistic sense, it attacks you with art in every form imaginable.

There were 3 aerial pieces during the performance, each unique and each left me in a trance. First, a dancer (Francoise Voranger) suspended in a silk hammock, right in front of the steps leading up to the Museum.


Second, a dancer (Chelsea Teel Wilcox) suspended in air in front of the Bloch Building. Imagine, a silhouette of an aerial dancer with just the glow of the Bloch Building as the backdrop. It was absolutely beautiful.

The third and final aerial performance was 2 dancers (Jessi Fouts and Amanda Artigas) who scaled down the side of the main Museum building. I forgot to breathe while watching this finale. It was a living piece of art.
See photo taken by Jenny Wheat

I have seen a lot in life as far as performing arts. As many of you know, my dad started taking me to see plays and musicals as soon as I was old enough to plie. This now being my second Quixotic show I have seen, I am a fan for life. They push the envelope to produce a true artistic experience, not just a show. Great things are ahead for this performance group, Quixotic. And Kansas City should be very proud to say that it began here. - Ginny Evans


Bodies, lights and sounds high and low

By Jone Stone Mon, Jun 22, 2009

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Every choreographer looks at the stage and yearns to find a creative way of dealing with the large space above the heads of the dancers. Quixotic's aerial dancing was a crowd-pleasing solution and produced some memorable moments.
Bodies, lights and sounds high and low

Quixotic has a darkly magical vision well worth seeing. Dancers performed moves from ballet leg extensions to modern dance falls to hip hop riffs to circus feats-live musicians on each side of the stage with instruments amplified to make the theater vibrate with sound-visual artists creating a mobile setting of ever-changing light patterns and visual projections-they call themselves Quixotic Fusion and that's what they are.

Their latest production, Lux Esalare (to exhale/emit/breathe forth light) begins with a Prelude in the lobby, where the theme of darkness and light is introduced by two fashion models, one in black and one in white, wearing striking mini hoop skirts on top of street-wear tights and leotards. Are the hoop skirts a contemporary take on the undergarments of 19th and 18th century dancers?

Following the Prelude, the production on stage is structured in sixteen short, intense scenes, and the intensity never flags. The first scene revolves around a central couple, Rachel Coats and Michael Eaton, who enter in a burst of fog, her in white and him in black. The couple reappears briefly in later scenes and then seem to break apart. Eaton danced frequently enough to be something of a central figure, but Lux steers away from narrative. Scene follows scene, held together loosely by the theme of darkness and light, weight and lightness, ground and air with darkness predominating. The scenes were arranged for variety and contrast: a group dance, a quartet, an aerial dance, a solo, a dance lit only by the lights in the dancers' hands, etc. Not knowing quite what's coming next is part of the excitement.

Every choreographer looks at the stage and yearns to find a creative way of dealing with the large space above the heads of the dancers. Aerial dancing is a crowd-pleasing solution and produced some memorable moments in Lux: a dance with three loops of rope that aerial dancer BJ Erdmann manipulated to tie himself into extraordinary shapes, to perform multiple vertical pirouettes, and to suspend himself by an arm or a leg; a duet for ballerinas Rachel Coats and Angie Sansone, using their ballet training to execute a sequence of lyrical moves that concluded with running en l'air around the space; and a daring conversation between a dancer flying through the air and a contingent of dancers on the ground. Another moment, notable for the interplay of non-aerial dance and visuals, was the solo for the wonderful dancer, Lateef Williams, with the intriguing title "Conscience."

Quixotic's Lux Esalare is a collaborative effort: eight different choreographers and sixteen dancers, several from the Kansas City Ballet, working with a Concept Team, a Musical Composition and Sound Design Team, and a Projection Design Team. Co-artistic directors Anthony Magliano and Mica Thomas seem dedicated to giving equal weight to the various ingredients and blending them into a cohesive whole, and their efforts succeed quite well. As a dancer, this reviewer wanted the sound to let up occasionally, so the rhythms of the dance could play more of a role, and for the visual components to become sparse enough now and then, so the spatial configurations of the dance could take over. Each scene in Lux had a title that leans toward meaning, such as "Spiraling the Human Chord," "Conscience" and "Stay in Line." But there were no program notes, no further explanations. For the moment Quixotic has opted for Lights! Sound! Action! What you see and hear is what it is! And maybe that's the only tolerable way to keep on going in these chaotic times. - Kcmetropolis.org & Written by: Jone Stone


Quixotic Returns with Lux Esalare

In the realm of full-sensory theatrical experiences, few performance ensembles can match the raw artistry of Kansas City’s very own Quixotic. As a crucible of unpredictable inspiration that combines contemporary ballet and modern dance, original live music, aerial artistry, high-end fashion design and cutting edge performance technology, Quixotic is both an artistic experiment and experience like few others.
Quixotic Performance Ensemble presents
LUX ESALARE

Now in their fifth year of existence, Quixotic is currently in preparations to debut their latest full-scale original production LUX ESALARE at the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s Spencer Theatre on June 19, 2009, with additional performances on June 20, 25-27.

Loosely adapted from an ancient Greek fable but incorporating elements of Italian tarocchi (known in more modern terms as tarot) and the literary influences of Goethe and Dante, LUX ESALARE is at its core a simple tale of one man’s search for possibility. Within his unrelenting aspirations to become more than what he is, he must decide between a simple life of contentment and the unrealized aspirations of unbridled achievement. With each step of his journey and with every choice he makes comes both reward and consequence.

According to artistic director and Quixotic co-founder Anthony Magliano, LUX ESALARE represents “an incredible step forward for the ensemble.”

“From the moment we started working on this production, we knew we wanted to push ourselves even further than ever before,” Magliano says. “In many ways, the thematic material of this work is a reflection of the personal drive that every member of Quixotic has inside him or herself. At one time or another, we’ve all struggled to maintain balance while at the same time trying to feed that artistic hunger that each of us has within. As a result, this production has been a very personal labor of love for all of us.”

As a contemporary arts collective, the performing and creative collaborators behind Quixotic draw upon every muse they can find while at the same time actively searching out new and exciting influences. For Magliano’s fellow artistic director Mica Thomas, now entering his third year with the group, the disparate approaches among the variety of artists proves to be more of an inspiration rather than a hurdle.

“Contemporary ballet and modern dancers share the stage with aerialists overhead,” says Thomas. “A diverse and unique combination of musicians play shoulder to shoulder. Fashion designers actively collaborate with make up artists. Traditional theater technicians engage with digital technologists. And then with LUX ESALARE we have the honor of bringing in a world-class talent like Sonya Tayeh [So You Think You Can Dance choreographer and EDGE Performing Arts Center instructor] as a choreographer. It’s hard to think how much more we can throw into the mix. In the end, it is incredible how it all comes together seamlessly.”

With a cast, crew and host of musicians and designers that reads like a veritable who’s who of top talent from both in- and outside of the area, LUX ESALARE promises to be, as reviews for previous productions have described, “a spectacle for the senses.”

“The audience is a key component,” says percussionist and Quixotic live music director Brandon Draper. “When everything is right, the energy we bring to the stage is being reflected right back to us by the audience. That’s when we know that we’re all on this journey together.”

Quixotic takes a 180-degree turn away from the ethereal, organic sound of past productions this year. Instead, the music bears the imprint of post-modern industrial, emo-tinged pop allure, and ambient sounds of space. Think Imogen Heap, The Postal Service, Massive Attack, Fourtet, The Durutti Column. It's a refreshing change that suggests a completely different visual backdrop and physical interpretation through dance. - Present Magazine


Discography

Emovere
Lux Esalare

Photos

Bio

Combining mesmerizing atmospheric elements and riveting live entertainment, Quixotic is a unique fusion of movement, sound, and visual arts. The company draws from all dance disciplines and merges aerial artistry in its explorations.

Original compositions capture a blend of tribal percussion rhythms, ambient landscapes, and tonality unlike other groups in today's varied music scene. Videographers and film artists generate new and ever-changing images that fill the performance space and provide the backdrop for the performers. Imaginative costume, make-up, and hair designs by emerging young artists unify the Quixotic experience. Combined it is a multiple sensory experience that surrounds the audience and engages the imagination while it stimulates an audience's sense of wonder.