(Last Updated On: July 28, 2017)

There’s a difference between talking to children and talking with children. The latter involves getting on the child’s level—whether literally kneeling down to see eye-to-eye, or letting him or her drive the conversation.

This insight is a cornerstone of the 2017 Breckenridge International Festival of Arts (BIFA), which returns for a third year August 11-20. Many of the diverse visual and performing arts experiences to be featured are family-centered and interactive—in other words, art that is less about sitting and watching, and more about participating first-hand.

5. ‘Ants’ by Polylot Theatre

The show opens when three giant ants emerge in the plaza, busy on a task reorganizing a large pile of breadcrumbs. Instead of engaging with children, the ants leave them to figure out how to take part. Eventually children start picking up on what needs to be done, handing breadcrumbs to the ants or helping them put breadcrumbs in line. There are no words in the show, just clicks, buzzes, and whirrs.

“Children end up clicking at the ants,” said the troupe’s artistic director, Sue Giles, who develops her concepts by observing child’s play. “Sometimes the ants will crouch, and all the children will crouch and wait and rub their antennas together. It becomes quite magical, and really, really strange,” she said. “Sometimes it just looks like choreography.”

As the performance progresses, children start laying breadcrumbs down in new lines and the ants follow suit, resulting in patterns crisscrossing public space.

4. ‘Los Trompos’by Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena

“Los Trompos” by Mexican designers Hector Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena is a sculptural representation of five large-scale spinning tops.  Although children are often told “don’t touch” when it comes to art, such is not the case with “Los Trompos.” Instead, the artwork aims to inspire interaction by inviting passersby to climb on and in the sculptures, or join together to set them in motion. Children, in particular, “go crazy with them,” he said, as the pieces “become amazing, huge toys.” Past installations have seen adults, too, relaxing in their shade to socialize or read a book.


3. ‘Monuments’ by Craig Walsh

The temporary, visual installation “Monuments” will rove town for the duration of BIFA, lighting up area trees nightly with projections of three local subjects—historian Maureen Nicholls, age 75; biking enthusiast Jeff Wescott, age 55; and dancer Zoe Gallup, age 12. Created by Australian artist Craig Walsh, the work uses minimal-motion video to create the appearance of large, topiary-like sculptures in which the portraits of local subjects have been carved.

The subjects for the Breckenridge installation were selected “because of their unique connection to the themes of history, athleticism, and creativity—all of which are integral to the fabric of our community,” said Robb Woulfe, creator and chief curator of BIFA. “By including Zoe, who represents the young, creative voices in our community, we aim to make connections with local children and to honor the next generation of artists, thought leaders, and change-makers.” The piece is co-presented by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, which will offer an outdoor lecture on “local legends” who have shaped Breckenridge.

2. ‘Driftwood’ by Casus Circus

Contemporary circus returns to BIFA with the U.S. premiere of ‘Driftwood,” a show by the Australian company Casus Circus. This collective of friends and family is known worldwide for its “delicately human” performances that explore the real personalities of the acrobats.

“Yes there are some amazing circus skills that celebrate the possibilities of the human body,” said Natano Fa’anana, the group’s creative producer and co-founder. “But the essence of ‘the person’ is what excites us as storytellers, and this is woven throughout the choreography.”

1. ‘Birdmen + PerQ’

The Dutch performance troupe Close-Act Theatre will be back by popular demand to animate Blue River Plaza with new open-air acts, performed twice daily August 15-19. ‘Birdmen’ features giant, illuminated, pterodactyl-like creatures, and the 19th century marching band ‘PerQ’ is bound to inspire strange processions of performers and guests alike.


Breckenridge International Festival of Arts // breckcreate.org/bifa
Polyglot Theatre // polyglot.org.au
Los Trompos // esrawe.com
Craig Walsh // craigwalsh.net
Casus Circus // casus.com.au

Photos credits: ‘Monuments’ photos by Courtney Pedersen and Chris Phutully; ‘Los Trompos’ by Braden Camp, Jonathan Hillyer, and Abel Klainbaum; ‘Driftwood’ courtesy of Casus Circus; ‘Ants’ courtesy of Polyglot Theatre; ‘Birdmen’ courtesy of Close-Act Theatre; Itchy-O courtesy of Itchy-O; and Tree-o courtesy of Russick Smith.