Quixotic was inspired by modest ambitions.
“I wanted to do something very different and very cool, collaborating with friends in dance and music,” said Anthony Magliano, Quixotic’s founder and artistic director. “But back then we figured it would be a once-a-year event.”
Back then was in 2005. Quixotic’s initial presentations were different but primitive. Several events were in disheveled vacant buildings.
“It was kind of rugged at first,” said Mica Thomas, who became the group’s associate artistic director in 2006. “Sometimes the power would go out so you’d have to pull it from other buildings across the alley.”
Ten years later, Quixotic has blossomed into a large and thriving performance art entity. This year alone, in various formations, it toured the West Coast and Alaska and performed at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and in Las Vegas as part of Cirque du Soleil’s One Night for One Drop, a benefit for World Water Day, all of them dreams come true.
“Mica and I have been to (Cirque’s) shows and we’d say ‘Can you imagine working in a theater like this?,’” Magliano said. “And there we were.”
“Red Rocks was a dream show,” said Thomas, a native Alaskan, “and I was really thrilled to get to take the show to Alaska.”
Saturday night, Quixotic will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the Lied Center in Lawrence, where it will present Gravity of Center, a 73-minute showcase of the many facets the group has developed over 10 years: dance, aerial acrobatics, music, projection mapping, lighting.
The show will be a pastiche of new and previous performances that have been modified and configured into one continuous narrative thread.
“We have a lot of pieces with cool messages and themes but without a home,” Magliano said. “We get commissioned to do things like a fashion show opening or, like, we went to China and performed at a product-launching for a watch. So what we wanted to do with this show was take the new content and the classic pieces and make a cohesive show.
“If you’ve seen us before, you might recognize some parts of this show, like ‘Aquarium,’” Thomas said. “But everything has been tweaked and changed, whether it’s the animation or music or choreography. So this will be the first time this show has been performed.”
Several of Quixotic’s formative shows were presented in its hometown, including two performances of “Surface” on the south facade of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art; a performance at the Music Hall with the Kansas City Symphony; and the centennial celebration of Union Station, which featured some stunning art-projection mapping that turned the building into a 3-D digital screen.
Magliano and Thomas both said the pivotal year for Quixotic was 2012, when it was invited to perform at the TED Conference in Long Beach, Calif. The invitation followed the troupe’s performance at TEDx KC in 2010.
“After (TED), the phone started ringing,” Magliano said. “We’d get calls, ‘Hey, we like what you guys do. We’re having a company event and we want to do something cool to inspire our employees.’ That’s when everything started coming to us.”
And that’s when Quixotic started to travel to far-off locales. In the past three years, Quixotic has sent ensembles to events in India, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Oman, China and Bahrain. It also has become a regular at festivals. That all started after Brett Mosiman of Pipeline Productions invited the group to perform at the Wakarusa Music Festival in 2011. After that, festivals like Wanderlust came calling.
“We connect with that scene, the healing arts and the fitness-arts scene,” Magliano said. “Sometimes we get to tour with some of our favorite bands like Thievery Corporation and the Polyphonic Spree.”
In 2013, Quixotic moved into its headquarters/studio at 16th Street and Broadway, a voluminous building that houses rehearsal space, a makeshift performance/theater space called the Black Box, offices, an animation studio, a dance studio and a shop where the troupe’s aerial apparatuses are designed and forged.
The staff has grown significantly over 10 years. Thomas estimated it’s at “30-ish, ” The retention rate has been high. Shane Borth, the band’s violinist, has been there for 10 years, lighting director Daniel Parks for eight and dancers/aerialists Megan Stockman and Lauren Winstead for more than five years.
“There’s not a lot of turnover, and we keep adding people,” said Magliano, who left his full-time advertising job three years ago to devote all his time to Quixotic. “And we move into bigger spaces and fill those up.”
The group slowed its schedule this summer to focus on the 10th anniversary show and on some other big projects that are looming, none of which seemed imaginable in 2005.
“When we started out in those abandoned buildings, there were so many different people trying to figure things out on the spot,” Thomas said. “I really loved that kind of rough quality to it. But, no, I never imagined we’d be where we are.”
“I never even thought about touring when we started, and look at all the places we’ve taken this,” Magliano said. “But we just kept adding shows and started to realize the potential to take it outside of Kansas City. We kept getting more high-brow gigs and kept growing.”
Quixotic presents Gravity of Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive in Lawrence. Tickets are $30 for adults $20 for students and youth. Tickets are available at Lied.KU.edu