Watching Galumpha perform raises certain questions, such as "How is that guy's foot balancing on that other guy's head?" and "Are those feet or hands weaving through that armpit?" A moving unit of contortion and illusion, this three-man acrobatic/performance art/ dance group defies both gravity and categorization. The many vignettes that comprise its energized shows are brief and bewildering, because the members -- Andy Horowitz, Greg O'Brien, and Marlon Torres -- create bodily formations that seem to challenge the laws of physics. Having toured around the world, Galumpha has its San Francisco debut this month, bringing finely crafted stunts like the indescribable Double-Jumping Crakator and the insect-esque Look-Ma-No-Hands to local audiences with a penchant for the anatomically unusual.
The company started in Binghamton, N.Y., in 1986, taking its name from a camellike creature the dancers developed in one of their pieces. The word "galumph" was originally coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass, then eventually made its way into Webster's dictionary as a verb that means, among other things, "to move or walk heavily and clumsily." But there's nothing clumsy about the precise choreography of the troupe, which instigates a lot of play between it and its audience. "We disregard the fourth wall," said company director and dancer Horowitz in a recent phone interview. "We communicate with the audience. That's why it's better than TV."
The 14 segments in Galumpha's current performance (also called Galumpha) range from quirky to dark, but are generally more about lightness than angst. Opening the show is "From the Depths," a dreamscape of movement performed to electric bluegrass tunes by the HorseFlies. Later, in "Rachmaninoff" (named after the composer), the trio morphs into an unbelievably tall, cloaked figure. "The Weird Sisters" (dubbed so for the three witches in Macbeth) is a ceremonial piece of conjuring that ends with a screaming human calliope, while "Human Fly" is a sweeter, softer take on Kafka's "Metamorphosis" in which the dancers produce a grandiose fly formation. But the work that best encapsulates the show's fleeting qualities is "Window-7," in which the entire stage is closed off except for a hole that functions as a window, through which viewers can see only snippets of the performers' leaps and bounds.
Tickets are $15-25
While the works are distinctly acrobatics-based, the three men draw from a variety of backgrounds, including soccer, karate, and yoga. And there's more to the act than the mere tossing and catching of bodies. At the heart of all of the onstage physical intermingling, said Horowitz, are the grander concepts of camaraderie and exuberance: "We are expressing joy and trust beyond what most people think are possible."