Exclusive Q&A with Nick Bowman, Rhythmic Circus Executive Director and Award-Winning Performer

What do you get when you mix percussive tap with live funk, rock, blues and soul music? Rhythmic Circus, the explosive Twin Cities dance ensemble, brings their critically acclaimed production “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!” back to the Pantages Theatre for two performances only, this Friday (July 20) and Saturday (July 21). These shows are the only chance to see the troupe locally as they gather support to return to Scotland’s prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August and launch an upcoming Off-Broadway run. We had a chance to ask Nick Bowman, Rhythmic Circus Executive Director and award-winning performer, what gives his show its non-stop energy.

Q. What led you to create Rhythmic Circus?

Before we started this project, Ricci Milan and I were busy teaching locally at dance studios as well as traveling the country teaching for various dance organizations including competitions, conventions, dance studios and university dance programs. We enjoyed the work but often discussed putting together a music and dance show that featured our style of tap dance as well as the musical style of our friends who were playing in a multitude of local bands.

We wanted to create a dance show for “the people.” In other words, we wanted to create a show that all types of audiences would respond to enthusiastically. Our other major goal was to create a show that we would be proud to stand behind artistically. In our combined performance history we felt we had only had the opportunity to perform in shows that served one of these two goals – it was always fun and cheesy, or artistic and boring.

In 2008, we decided that our window of opportunity to create a project that would serve those two goals was quickly closing. The time had come to enlist our friends to start working on our “passion project.” We quickly put a deposit down on a week long rental at the Ritz Theatre in Minneapolis and started creating musical numbers and brainstorming ideas as to how we could link them all together. What resulted was the beginning of “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!”

Q. What can patrons expect to see during your shows this Friday and Saturday?

Our show is a cross between a dance concert, a rock concert and a comedy hour. It features four dancers and seven musicians who combine efforts to encourage audiences to “believe in the power of their dreams.” It’s the kind of show that makes you want to get up and move. It is genre bending, mixing our style of hard-hitting, rapid-fire, extremely athletic tap dancing with rock, blues, soul and funk music.

Rhythmic Circus is a group of friends who came together to create a show that celebrates our community, our friendships and life in general. On the surface we are group of entertainers, but as the show progresses, you get the feeling that we are more like a secret club, or fraternal organization, a group of people that have a much deeper bond than originally anticipated. But we don’t want our group to be a secret. By the end of the show our goal is to make you feel invited to join the Circus and awaken to the Circus that’s alive inside of you.

The name of our show, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!,” is an old New Orleans chant dating back to the early 1900’s. It comes from a time when people were rich, not necessarily financially, but rich with culture and spirit. Back then they had parades in the street every Sunday just to celebrate their lives and their community. We have adopted the chant as more of a rallying cry or group motto. In these economic times, we want to get people back in touch with that spirit of celebration and provide a show that helps remind our audience that there is always a reason to get up, let go and dance.

Q. You performed at the Pantages last summer and your upcoming shows are the only chance for people to watch the group locally this summer. What do you like best about performing at the Pantages?

The Pantages is a beautiful theatre. We have traveled back and forth across the country for the past 18 months performing in over 90 cities and I can honestly say that the Pantages is our favorite venue we have had the opportunity to perform in. The combination between history and aesthetic beauty is unmatched. It also doesn’t hurt that it is the theatre where we had our favorite performances. There is something incredibly special about performing for your hometown. The love and support is almost overwhelming. It helps bring out the best in our ensemble and encourages us to raise the bar in our individual performances. We are all looking forward to the same kind of excitement this weekend.

Q. Have you had any memorable mishaps as you’ve performed your high-energy shows around the world?

Mishaps are the true gem of live entertainment! They are what make you realize that you are seeing something that is being created right now, right in front of you. They are something we try to prevent, but are truly unavoidable and seem to find their way into every show.

This past weekend in Fort Worth, TX, Ricci managed to miss his chair completely during the “chair dance.” There comes a point in the show where he and Cory are switching chairs at an incredibly quick pace, and for the first time in our show’s history, Ricci completely missed and found himself on his rear-end. From the wings the rest of the company was on the floor rolling around laughing while he popped up, made a joke and kept going without missing a beat. In the lobby after the show, most people couldn’t believe it wasn’t planned!

It’s these kind of “mistakes” that make live entertainment so drastically different from other forms of entertainment. Though they sometimes throw us off our usual rhythm, we cherish every single one of them!

Thanks to Nick Bowman for participating in our Q&A. For more information on Rhythmic Circus or to purchase tickets to their shows on Friday and Saturday, please visit our website.

Read a feature on the group that appeared in Sunday’s Star Tribune!

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