8 Phenomenal Festival Dance Troupes from 2015

Article by: Graham Berry|@Festival_Writer

Mon November 16, 2015 | 10:00 AM

Whether choreographed or improvised, expression through dance is as old as time. Moving our bodies lifts our spirits, serve as ritualized meditation, and lets us release what's inside. In fact, the cathartic sensation of dancing is medicinal to the soul, just like hugs and laughter –that’s why, at festivals, the dancing purveyors of this kind of energy are the heroes of the day. As festivals have become more and more varied, we now see professional dancers and full-fledged performance troupes take spots on festival lineups for their unique onstage energy and spectacle. 

In their own way, dancers add to the universal allure of festivals. They set a tempo for movement, and tell stories through costumes and choreography to make the onstage experience come alive. Troupes' dance performances transcend the cultural divides of age, gender, musical genre and language by engaging the crowd on an elemental level. Their bold and free expressions give us permission to tap into our true, unbridled selves.

To celebrate the dedication of those who practice daily to rock our favorite festivals each year, we’ve collected eight videos showcasing talent of the most phenomenal festival dance troupes to grace festival stages in 2015. 

La Fura Dels Baus at Wilderness Festival (UK)

This summer, one performance arts group in the UK proved that despite the absence of wings when we enter this world, people can still learn to flutter together through the air like birds. The Spectacle was highlighted recently as one of the great shows of the season because, in addition to a colossal, human-like marionette that looked like it was casting spells, it incorporated a “human net” that seemed to catch the breeze as it wafted about in the mist.

Quixotic Cirque Nouveau at Wakarusa

With a clever blend of projection mapping, refined dance and aerial performance, Quixotic melds the worlds of technology and performance art in surprising and mesmerizing performances. In this way, Quixotic stokes the fires of imagination by showcasing so much dreamy creativity – perfect for a festival setting. This year Quixotic lit up the night at Contour Music Festival, Symbiosis, Arise, Lucidity and Wakarusa, just to name a few.

Madame Zingara Cirque Troupe at AfrikaBurn (South Africa)

At AfrikaBurn few take the stage like those with Madame Zingara's collective. The Cirque troupe is acclaimed for its aerial acrobatics and breath-taking stunts. In a performance that incorporates elements from the customs of local tribes, Madame Zingara demonstrates that a grandiose spectacle can be packaged into a cozy experience that is both fresh and exciting, while also being rich with a strong cultural heritage.

Flamewater Circus at Psyfari Festival (Australia)

There are many fire performance groups, but the folks at the Flamewater Circus seem to be upping the ante when it comes to breathing techniques. Slow, controlled breaths are used to manage flames, which makes for an intimate experience with the performers; you can see and almost feel the air leaving their bodies and exploding into fire. It’s also impressive that the conductor and namesake of Flamewater Circus actually maintains a strong beard game alongside his fire-breathing profession.

Lucent Dossier Experience at Coachella Music and Arts Festival

For the past nine years, Coachella has hosted a gem of the performance art community, the Lucent Dossier Experience. As the brainchild of Dream Rockwell and a beloved act frequently seen at Lightning In a Bottle and Shambhala, the Lucent Dossier Experience is the performance other performers hope to see. It continues to sets itself apart with energizing, tribal rhythms, and Cirque-inspired showmanship with a Victorian panache. This year was especially impressive with the addition of onstage fire drums, an acrobatic rig appropriately called “the stargate,” and the always-impressive underwater contortion chamber.

Bijoulette at Woogie Weekend

Few deliver fun quite like the cartoony characters of Bijoulette. One minute the troupe's whipping out a colorful two-step that'll bring out the kid in you, the next it’s a burlesque-inspired ballet with vaudevillian flair. The group is especially known for engaging crowds in fabulous ways. For instance, at Woogie Weekend it hosted a debauchery-filled afternoon via a water slide, and at Symbiosis, it instigated shenanigans with squirt guns and seductive dance floor take-overs. Whether you want a fun vibe or a hilarious show, Bijoulette always offers a high-octane, dance-infused adventure you won’t forget.

Strange Fruit at Melbourne International Arts Festival (Australia)

High above the crowd, the performers of StrangeFruit teeter back and forth on huge bendable sticks that defy gravity. StrangeFruit reminds us that just like each flower blowing in the breeze, we are all unique; we all have a very human need for balance in our lives. And we all encounter forces that threaten to topple us over. However, in festivals (where people themselves are often art) or in life, sharing our talents with the world requires the courage to stand up a little differently – just as StrangeFruit does. Talk about an inspiring show!

SkyFireArts at Electric Daisy Carnival (Las Vegas and Brazil)

Perhaps the most electrifying performance in the music festivals scene right now occurs at Electric Daisy Carnival. In addition to aerialists, acrobatics, stilt walkers and pyrotechnics, SkyFire hosts a cavalcade of martial arts-inspired dancers wielding weapons imbued with fire and lightning. That’s right: lightning! A massive Tesla coil slings bolts of electricity clear across the stage while acrobats catch lightning to spark fires and ignite pyrotechnical explosions. In fact, the equipment is so highly charged with electricity that it hums and crackles like a wagon-sized bug zapper. That’s why, when these wizards perform at Electric Daisy Carnival, one can’t help but appreciate the mastery required to safely produce such a mesmerizing show.

It should go without saying: there are many more amazing performers out there, so we want to know which ones did we miss! Which dance or performance groups are your favorite?