A gleaming blue and pink canopy stretches high above LeBauer Park in downtown Greensboro, illuminating the venue for hundreds of onlookers as the sun sets. The crowd watches and waits for a night of art, which begins as the speakers echo the opening monologue far and wide: “In the beginning, we planted a seed.” All at once, an ensemble of marvelous characters, two in pink, two in blue and three yellow, run to attention. Their wide smiles fade as the speakers blare the sounds of thundering rain. The music softens and the performers symbolically plant a seed into the ground and dance gracefully to the sounds of the rains and contort themselves to the thunder. 

The performances come to life as parts of three main acts of Passages: An Homage to Our ‘Extra’Ordinary Lives, a production by the Activate Entertainment Project, a local circus performance company based out of Greensboro. The ensemble, which includes artists from all over the world, performed their piece on Saturday. The performance was the culmination of a five-month artist residency by Activate through the Downtown Parks association. 

“This is a show that was created here with a group of local, national and international artists,” says Houston Odum, the artistic director for Activate Entertainment Project, “Essentially the show was formed out of our observation of the daily life of people in Greensboro.”

“At times all we had was this flower, but it was enough to spark change,” opens the next act. The crowd gives thunderous applause to the performer as he balances rods on his head and flings them high into the air only to catch them and juggle them around and around.

‘Passages’ (photo by Jennifer Scheib, Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc.)

While the performance is successful in captivating spectators with dancing and controntions akin to Cirque du Soleil, there is also a message being conveyed throughout the piece that doesn’t go unnoticed.

“The performance consists of three main sections,” says Odum. “The first being about childhood and losing that childhood spark you once had and how you get back to it and not losing hope. The second piece is about people you meet everyday, people you bump into and how that can carry you through the rest of your life. The third section is about a struggle that it takes to actually reach a goal that for others may be easy. What we wanted to do with this piece was to make it fun, lively, family friendly and not bog you down. A simple message that still touches people in some way. The concept is about three different planting of a seed that becomes a flower.”

Towards the end of the piece, the man in blue climbs a pole that has a bouquet of flowers at the top. He pulls himself further and further up but fails to reach the prize on his own. Suddenly, the other dancers rush around him and stack boxes beside the pole. It soon becomes too high for them to place more on top, but the dancer in blue begins to catch the boxes and place them atop the tower of boxes as he climbs further up. Finally, he reaches his destination.

As the show comes to a close, the loudspeakers leave the audience with a message: “In the end, it was never about the planting of the seed, but the journey of its growth.” 

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