Quixotic Fusion: Art in Motion

Co-Artistic Directors Anthony Magliano and Mica Thomas redefine the future of performance art in Kansas City.

Sansone and Smith show off their variety of costumes–designed by Erica Sword and Lisa Choules–with Noguchi’s Six Foot Energy Void.

The act of fusion is to merge diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole while quixotic has the connotation that the word has a loftiness and romance to it and perhaps a little bit of impracticality to it all. These two words form the name of an exciting multimedia performance art group that has a significant fan base in Kansas City and an ever-growing audience in many areas across the United States.

Initially founder and Artistic Director Anthony Magliano wanted to give a few of the dancers from the Kansas City Ballet a chance to be creatively experimental during their off months from the ballet company. He co-founded the group with Keelan Whitmore six years ago. Whitmore danced with the Kansas City Ballet and now with the LINES Ballet Company in San Francisco. The two men wanted to break the barriers between performer and audience creating a new and fresh experience unlike any other for its audience.

The first few performances were in old buildings and art gallery settings where the team came into the raw space and created an evocative collaboration amongst selected artists, dancers, choreographers, musicians and others in the local arts community, Magliano says. “It is that raw and gritty environment that contrasts so well with our productions.” The group’s popularity continues to grow. They have been a big hit at Water Fire for the past three years. “It’s really our energy and uniqueness that allows us to appeal to those in fashion or in music festivals. We are adaptable and we create a performance that fits each stage.”

Co-Artistic Director Mica Thomas says the group got serious and became an artistic non-profit in 2007. Magliano says the group has performed in almost every theater in town. They have performed at the Madrid, the Lyric Theatre and on the side of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 1933 building as well as in front of the Bloch Building. They performed for the Grand Opening of the Moshe Safdie designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in which dancers were suspended from a crane, and the north surface of the entire building was illuminated with custom architectural projections.

Of course, one of the tougher things for the group is to figure out how to best define themselves. They are visual artists who play with light and animation. They have a core group of dancers and musicians who interact and perform together. “Quixotic is a physical theater and performing arts ensemble. We create our own music and we push innovation.” Thomas’s background is in lighting design while Magliano comes from graphic design and composing. However, the crew wears many hats and it’s not uncommon to see Thomas and Magliano on stage, playing various instruments or find them in their practice/office space on Union Hill, collaborating with the ensemble. The core dancers are Laura Jones, Megan Stockman, Devan Smith and Lauren Winstead. There are also guest dancers such as Angelina Sansone and Beau Campbell.

Stockman shows off her high-flying agility next to Nogushi’s Avatar.

A few successes stand out for Magliano and Thomas. First, they worked with the Kansas City Symphony to create a new show called Symphonic Quixotic, that consisted of two sold out performances in mid-May with the goal in mind to bring in a younger audience. Thomas says they brought in a younger demographic that mingled with the more traditional Symphony crowd. “The Symphony essentially brought families together.”

Magliano says as people embrace more and more personal technology, people expect more to be given, even in the realm of entertainment. “We find that people want to have an experience that is truly lasting.” Other significant highlights include the Nelson-Atkins performance where essentially the group made the buildings and grounds their stage. “There we were almost a performance installation. Again we reached a significant audience for them of around 5,000. It was a privilege to be asked by another established arts organization such as the Nelson-Atkins. Collaboration is the key.” He says the group was also honored to be part of the regular season at the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College. As artists, the group performed its outreach in the various disciplines and as a result had an incredible number of student tickets sold.”

In mid-September, the team found themselves front and center at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. They created a fully immersive light, music and dance show that even impressed architect Moshe Safdie. In a letter, Safdie wrote … “what you produced here was joyous, uplifting, subtle and resonated with the architecture, and visa versa, in a wonderful way. Congratulations on an extraordinary job. It would be a pleasure to collaborate in the future.”

The performing arts crew entertained at the Hemline fashion show in October and New Year’s Eve at Harrah’s Casino. Events like this and many others have given Quixotic Fusion a chance to share an incredible skill set with their new audiences. “It’s about innovation and a non-traditional look at what art and science can do when they come together. We have highly trained performers,” Magliano says. “It’s a commitment from all of us to not only be seen regionally and nationally, but global.”

Stockman, Sansone, Jones and Smith displays the sculptural qualities of their newest “apparatus,” designed by Machinehead and Magliano.

However, in saying that, the Quixotic team wants to make sure Kansas City artists are receiving their dues. Machine Head fabricators are creating the group’s aerial apparatuses including some unique pieces for the aerial artists. “We are creating opportunities so performers can stay here and work.” To that end, Quixotic Fusion has an booking agency that get the group gigs at festivals, corporate events and casinos. “We adapt our performances and every project is different. We integrate what we need to be successful.”

To showcase the collective’s talents, Magliano and Thomas are creating a season that includes collaborations and student/community outreach. “We want to do three big events,” Magliano says. The first performance of the series will take place at the Midland Theatre on April 14. The following month the group will host an all ages two-day event called Fuse at the studio in Union Hill on May 7 and 8. Thomas says the Quixotic School of Performing Arts is helping the group’s reach into the community. The school offers aerial training, dance, trapeze, fire performance, musical instruction and conditioning classes. Rounding out the 2012 Series in September will be a free two-night performance called Surfaces: An Illuminated Retrospective at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This will be the next version of the 2009 performance outside on the walls of the Nelson where guests can come be on the lawn of the Nelson with blankets, chairs and coolers and be a part of a truly unique experience that encapsulates performing arts right here in Kansas City.

The comparison to Cirque du Soleil flatters the two men. “We have a bit more of a contemporary edge,” Thomas says. “We aim for the emotional experience.” Magliano says, the inspiration may come from fashion designer Alexander McQueen or architect Moshe Safdie. “We aim to take people to another place while celebrating the human body. It is all non-traditional. We seek out huge lovers of performance, music and dance. It is the sense of illusion that leaves people wondering how we do what we do.”

And as 2012 rolls on and the future continues to look bright for Quixotic as they hope for more collaboration within the community. Some of the choices include students and professors from the Kansas City Art Institute. They also mentioned artists in town such as sculptors Reilly Hoffman and Beth Nybeck. We hope for many more conversations with artists in the years to come providing more opportunities to create contemporary work for Kansas City audiences and beyond,” Magliano says.

Photos by Brad Austin

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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