On the Move: Quixotic at 10

 Quixotic Experiential Concepts and Performance Company offered an online streaming cabaret and other performance events over the summer. (Photo by Paul Garcellano, courtesy Quixotic)

Capping off a decade, the unique home-grown performance group enjoys growing national demand

Ten years ago, Anthony Magliano had an idea. Today, he’s the artistic director for the performance group, Quixotic. In 2005 Magliano was a rising star in the design department at Bernstein-Rein, a Kansas City-based advertising agency. When KC’s fine arts scene began booming, Magliano wanted to jump in. At first, he said, it was all for fun.

“Quixotic began as an experimental collaboration. It was just between me and my friends in dance, music and fashion. The idea was to do something fun and make the arts more accessible. Just to be creative. So we put all these different forms of art in a setting where people who maybe don’t go to the theater that much would get to see them.”

The beginning certainly wasn’t glamorous. One of the group’s earliest shows was staged in a then-vacant office building downtown. They spent more time cleaning out junk left behind than rehearsing. Soon, though, the shows grew more polished and ambitious. The venues grew nicer. The audiences got bigger.  Steve Bernstein was a big early supporter, as were the Charlotte Street and Kauffman foundations.

Violinist Shane Borth accompanies dancer Laura Jones during a behind-the-scenes presentation for KCPT supporters in the black box theatre at Quixotic’s building in downtown Kansas City, MO. Photo by Mark Berndt

2009 was a breakout year. That summer Quixotic staged Surface, a one-night only, site-specific installation that used the facade of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art as a canvas. The next year, it performed with the Kansas City Symphony. In 2011, the group helped open the city’s new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. In 2012, Quixotic was given Silicon Valley’s unofficial stamp of genius. The group was invited to present at TED in Long Beach, California. Quixotic has since performed for royalty at the gala grand opening of the new National Theatre in Bahrain, headlined at major music festivals across the country, worked for corporate clients from Bulgari to Major League Baseball, and is fresh off a collaboration in Las Vegas with Cirque du Soleil.

Quixotic is hard to define. It isn’t a band, though members usually perform with live musicians – notably violinist Shane Borth. It isn’t a dance troupe either, despite having a fully trained dance company on hand. Quixotic is no circus, though any given performance might include circus arts, from fire jugglers to contortionists. Quixotic, true to its name, is just that. It is a multimedia arts collaborative; a singular mix of original live music, cutting-edge lights, video projection, elaborate costumes and stage effects, all blended with a hybrid form of choreography that mixes modern and contemporary dance with aerial acrobatics. At its best, it brings the excitement of a rock band, the sensual physicality of dance, and the holistic integration of Christo.

The appeal, however, goes beyond mere spectacle. Quixotic has a longing. Its aesthetic is unabashedly florid, often trippy, but also tinged by Felliniesque weirdness and sadness. The music aches and thunders. The dancers reach and yearn. Beneath all the fury and frenetic activity, there is a deeply embedded whisper of loneliness – a soft voice asking for love that’s audible only at the center of a hurricane.

In spring 2015, Quixotic collaborated with Cirque du Soleil on “One Night for One Drop Imagined,” at the Mirage Casino’s Love Theater in Las Vegas. The Quixotic performers included Joanna Curley, Laura Jones, Beau Campbell, Christen Edwards, Lauren Winstead, Megan Stockman and Shane Borth. Photo by Paul Garcellano, courtesy Quixotic

Beau Campbell is a sign of Quixotic’s growth. Blonde and impossibly leggy, with a fiercely creative mind, Campbell is an import – brought to Kansas City from Ballet Arizona. She came a year ago, for what was supposed to be a temporary stay, but has since put down roots.

Campbell raves about the arts in KC. “People here have a connection to the city and the culture. They are committed to both. It’s from the heart. People aren’t trying to be trendy – to just do whatever they think is cool or what will sell. They are trying to create good experiences.”

She chose Quixotic because “I wanted to be doing art that intrigues me. I didn’t want to do the same work every day. I wanted to get more innovative, have people listen to my ideas rather than just do what other people want. In a big company you often don’t get to express your ideas. Quixotic offers more collaboration, rather than just regurgitating information.”

Beau Campbell (foreground) and Christen Edwards were part of a March 31 performance in the Sprint Festival Plaza of Union Station. Photo by Nathan Lang

Lauren Winstead, a Kansas City native, agrees. Winstead was studying dance at UMKC’s Conservatory when Quixotic hired her three years ago. “I like the freedom within Quixotic. With Quixotic, there are no bad ideas. And there’s not one principal dancer. There’s not one performer that the whole show is built around. It’s all about enhancing each other’s strengths.”

Part of that future includes new ventures like Aura, a collaboration between Magliano and Campbell that offers movement classes to the public. Campbell describes Aura as sub-brand of Quixotic, mixing wellness practice with the arts. Aura, for instance, offers Glow Yoga, a class incorporating traditional yoga practice with black light body paint.

Quixotic’s future also includes, of course, ever bigger shows – including a massive performance at the Kauffman Center and dates at music festivals around the country. This month, Quixotic will film a live performance at famed Red Rocks Amphitheater.

For Magliano, though, the future is rooted in the past. He has the same goals today he did 10 years ago. “We just want to continue to grow, to push creatively.” Magliano said. “We just want to keep making it bigger and better, and to continue representing the Kansas City arts scene to the rest of the world.”

Hampton Stevens

Hampton Stevens is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, The Kansas City Star, and many other regional and national publications.

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