Dispatches from RIAF Part 2: A Resounding Success



The 2016 Ringling International Arts Festival has come and gone, bringing with it 21 performances from dancers, musicians, storytellers and satirists from around the world and leaving the community invigorated, inspired and hungry for more. Whether through the stimulating but challenging compositions of the Grammy Award-winning Eighth Blackbird, the narrative adventures of Thaddeus Phillips or satirical choreography of LMnO3, RIAF serves as a yearly reminder of the breadth and depth of contemporary performance art and the joy of shared exploration.

And explore the community did, coming out in droves for a series of festival firsts, including performances within the Ringling Circus Museum and the historic Ca d’Zan. 5,407 ticket holders came out, filling 87 percent of the seats throughout the festival—a 10 percent increase over 2015 numbers—and revenue from ticket sales increased by 15 percent, with a demographic spread.

“Genre-bending performances of theater/movement/music/comedy/dance drew cheers and hoots from large audiences that included a high percentage of younger people,” says Ringling Museum Curator of Performance Dwight Currie. “Both 17 Border Crossings and B.A.N.G.S.: made in america added bursts of creative energies in unconventional ways that the audiences seemed to love.” Explorations into the world of avant garde music met similar success, with audiences flocking to performances from both Eighth Blackbird and cellist Matt Haimovitz. “The audience response to both productions helps lay to rest any concern that Sarasota is ‘not ready’ for new musical expressions,” says Currie.

Participation in the augmented auxiliary programming, which this year included After Hours Jazz performances and Lounge on the Lawn events with food, drinks and live music, “increased dramatically” as well, according to The Ringling.

The continued importance of the circus traditions Sarasota maintains also received a spotlight this year, with performances from Finland’s Circo Aero and the Australian acrobats of Gravity and Other Myths harkening back to the feats and spectacle of a Ringling Brothers circus. “It was a joy to further expand our engagement with the world-wide phenomenon of ‘New Circus,’” says Currie. “Both productions were received with great enthusiasm, and many of the performance were sold out.”

With RIAF in the rearview, the audience looks forward to next year and Currie is already hard at work.

Pictured: Thomas Monckton collaborates with Circo Aero for a performance of "The Pianist." Photo courtesy of the artists.

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