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Prepare to be Mesmerized

Harmonic Laboratory and Quixotic Fusion team up for an explosive arts festival at the Hult
Quixotic Fusion’s ‘Gravity of Center’
Quixotic Fusion’s ‘Gravity of Center’

Sitting on the carpet of the Hult Center lobby on a misty February evening, a group of artists strain to look up at the towering ceiling with its jumble of M.C. Escher-like angles, balconies and staircases. They toss around terms like scrim and pulley and trapeze. 

The group decides they want to fasten a net to the wood beams where aerial dancers can twist and twirl. One artist, Mica Thomas, describes the scene as “that big moment that kind of shocks you a bit before the ending.”

Thomas is the artistic director for Quixotic Fusion, a performing arts troupe of 15-plus artists, dancers, costumer designers, animators, composers and lighting specialists from Kansas City. The troupe gained fame from its 2012 TED performance, “Dancing with Light,” and they recently performed with Cirque du Soleil.

The city of Eugene’s Cultural Services department flew Thomas out to see the space and to meet with local artist collective Harmonic Laboratory, directed by UO associate dance professor Brad Garner, composer Jeremy Schropp, UO digital arts instructor John Park and intermedia artist Jon Bellona. The two groups are partnering for Harmonic Lab’s (sub)Urban Projections 2015, an annual multimedia arts festival. 

“This is not something we do all the time,” Thomas says of the partnership between Quixotic Fusion and Harmonic Lab. “I think us joining forces — that is really unique, having those two things merge together to make something beautiful.”

Last year, for one dazzling night, the festival filled the Hult lobby with a kaleidoscopic and cutting-edge mix of lights, dance, music and 3-D projection mapping. This year, the fest spans two nights, April 2 and 3, and will feature the world premiere of Quixotic Fusion’s latest production, “Gravity of Center.”

“We’re going all in on this one,” says Eugene Public Art Manager Isaac Marquez, an organizer for the event. 

The event’s unexpectedly high attendance in 2014 made it difficult for the audience to see all aspects of the show — what Harmonic Lab considers a good problem, but one that needed to be addressed this year. 

“There are two shows happening simultaneously,” Garner says. Each show will repeat, giving audiences members a chance to see anything they missed. Local star female impersonator Karess Ann Slaughter (né Cornel Hardiman) will emcee and help corral the crowd.

In addition to Quixotic Fusion, Harmonic Lab is working with several local and national collaborators: Eugene band Betty and the Boy will perform for a pas de deux by dancers from Ballet Fantastique; Medium Troy will play with the Bohemian Dub Orchestra; Seattle poet Michelle Peñaloza will read her piece landscape/heartbreak to the choreography of UO adjunct dance instructor Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner; Arizona State dance professor and choreographer Mary Fitzgerald will fly in with dancer Jessica Rajko and digital artist Casey Farina to perform “Flow States”; and literally dozens more.

One piece not to miss is “Double Blacklight String Quartet,” composed by Schropp. Over backing audio produced by Medium Troy, the double quartet will flank four dancers in phantasmagoric costumes created by Anya Dikareva, a UO grad student in the art department. All will be doused in black light. 

“I’ll be tracking hand or bow motions,” says Park, explaining that there will be reflective tape on performers, which will be picked up by an infrared tracking camera and projected on a triangular screen above. 

The first night culminates with a group finale, including Quixotic Fusion’s high-flying dance act in the net. The second night is the premiere of “Gravity of Center.” “It’s about gravitational forces and how they’re reflected in relationships,” Thomas explains.

 “Part of the collaboration process is trusting and fate,” Garner says of the festival. “That’s what we enjoy about it — the unknown.”

Editor's note: The city of Eugene informed EW after going to press that they are no longer including the net as a component to the show due to logistics and expense.

The (sub)Urban Projections festival kicks off at 8 pm Thursday, April 2, in the Hult Center lobby; free. Quixotic Fusion presents “Gravity of Center” at 8 pm Friday, April 3, in the Hult’s Silva Concert Hall; $20-$45. All ages. Visit hultcenter.org for tickets.