Ringling International Arts Festival Takes Some New Turns

The festival, running Oct. 18-21, welcomes dance, theatrical spectacle and new work.

By Kay Kipling March 23, 2017

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Monica Bill Barnes & Co.'s Happy Hour.

Image: Courtesy RIAF


Get ready for this year’s Ringling International Arts Festival, taking place Oct. 18-21, to shake things up a bit.

Now in its ninth year, RIAF is doing some things differently from past seasons, under the direction of curator of performance Dwight Currie. For one thing, the season (which was announced Wednesday evening at an event on the Ringling Museum grounds) welcomes some home-grown talent (more on that in a moment), something it hasn’t done before. For another, the festival’s 24 performances of seven productions will make use, not of the FSU Performing Arts Center’s Mertz or Cook Theatres, but of other venues on the campus, including the Circus Museum, the West Courtyard and the Huntington Gallery.

That seems fitting for the diverse line-up the festival presents, which ranges widely from the big outdoor spectacle of aerial theater by eVenti Verticale to the humor of the Monica Bill Barnes & Co.’s dance piece Happy Hour to the utterly unpredictable White Rabbit Red Rabbit, a drama offered without rehearsal or direction, with a script that arrives in sealed envelopes at the start of each show. Here’s the schedule of performances and performers.


An ensemble of young women performing both traditional Zimbabwean songs and Afro jazz and gospel, touring the United States for the first time. Their voices are augmented by minimalistic percussion, traditional instruments and authentic dance. Performances in the Historic Asolo Theater at 2 p.m. Oct. 19, 8 p.m. Oct. 20, and 2 p.m. Oct. 21.

Volker Gerling

Since 2003, this German photographer has walked across his native country creating flipbook portraits of those he meets. His Portraits in Motion presents a selection of his favorites, projecting its moving images onto a large screen. Winner of the Total Theatre Award for Innovation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Performances at 5 p.m. Oct. 19 and 2 p.m. Oct. 20 in the Historic Asolo.

James McGinn

Choreographer McGinn grew up in Sarasota, attending Booker High, the son of longtime dance teacher Deborah Vinton. He now lives in Belgium, where he has created the new work Ing an Die, a shape-shifting love story told amidst a pre-apocalyptic landscape. Performances at 8 p.m. Oct. 19, 5 p.m. Oct. 20, and 5 p.m. Oc. 21 in the Historic Asolo.

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James McGinn's Ing an Die.

Image: Courtesy RIAF

Nassim Soleimanpour

Forbidden to leave his native Iran, Soleimanpour has distilled the experience of a generation facing the hardship of the Iran-Iraq war into the highly original White Rabbit Red Rabbit. Performances are at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Oct. 19, 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and 21, and no two performances will be alike, since the solo actor onstage will be doing a cold reading of a sealed script every time. Inside the Circus Museum.

Monica Bill Barnes & Co.

This contemporary dance ensemble transforms the Circus Museum into the Side Show Cabaret, where “two guys” crash an after-hours party, with the audience as guests. Happy Hour starts with cocktails and laughs, but evolves into something more. Performances at 5 p.m. Oct. 19, 5 and 8 p.m. Oct. 20, and 5 p.m. Oct. 21.


This recently formed musical group, founded by local violinist Samantha Bennett and local percussionist George Nickson, brings two different programs to the festival. The first explores the music of John Luther Adams in the James Turrell Skyspace (5 p.m. Oct. 19 and 5 p.m. Oct. 20); the second tackles Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas in an immersive experience set in the museum’s Huntington Gallery (5 p.m. Oct. 20 and 2 and 5 p.m. Oct. 21).

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eVenti Verticale's Wanted.

Image: Courtesy RIAF 

eVenti Verticale

This Italian performance group actually opens the festival with its mix of theater, circus, graphic art, acrobatics, dance, music and more, all on a vertical stage in the West Courtyard. (In a departure from previous years, there will not be other productions presented on opening night.) In Wanted, two men on the run take the audience on an adventurous trip in front of a massive three-story video projection. At 8 p.m. Oct. 18, 19 and 20.

Tickets for performances are $35, with discounts available for packages and museum members. Stop by the Historic Asolo Theater box office, call (941) 360-7399 or go online at

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