This weekend, Circus Foundry will bring “Sonder,” a production rooted in compassionate storytelling and the need for connection, to the Dairy Arts Center.

The relatively new Denver-based group, composed mostly of Coloradans, is melding thought-provoking subject matter with eye-catching acrobatics. Creating a new kind of insightful circus art that shines a light on social and complex issues, while still managing to entertain, these talented individuals are reconstructing just what it means to be a performer.

“There’s been a huge growth of circus in the U.S. and we are on this forefront of redefining it,” said Circus Foundry founder, director and performer Bethel Lindsley, who has graced the cruise ship stage of Royal Caribbean International and was part of the creation cast of “The Han Show” for Franco Dragone in Wuhan, China.

Zach Wiegert/ Courtesy photo

On the left, Circus Foundry co-owner and performer Anthony Cummings holds Circus Foundry founder and performer Bethel Lindsley in front of Denver Rock Drill, on the edge of Denver’s RiNo district, on March 17.

Slightly edgy and awe-inspiring, the buzz-worthy shows have consistently left an impression on audiences in Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins and  Albuquerque, N.M. The layered production incorporates partner acrobatics, Chinese pole, aerial rope, aerial hoop, tumbling, parkour, juggling, clowning and contortion with compelling themes that speak to the human condition.

Veterans in the circus world, Lindsley and members of her team have turned down lucrative contracts in order to build this company that  they could be proud of — a company that makes its moving performance art available to everyone, including underrepresented communities. The group aims to draw attention to social and cultural ideas and touch on deeper issues that are not always explored on stage.

“Finances came second,” said juggler, performer and Foundry co-owner Anthony Cummings, who, along with Lindsley, gave up job security to craft a vision of their very own.

At the core of Circus Foundry’s mission is charity. By partnering with a local nonprofit or foundation at each show, the troupe brings awareness and support to a variety of causes. The performers also offer interactive workshop sessions to individuals who are involved in certain programs — like the formerly incarcerated women at Albuquerque’s Crossroads for Women, a nonprofit that provides housing and services to help empower these women after being behind bars.

Zach Wiegert/ Courtesy photo

Members of the Circus Foundry pose in Denver in March. Saturday and Sunday the troupe will perform “Sonder” at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder.

“We want to share our work and message with underserved communities,” said Lindsley. “We’re actively going into communities where there isn’t a ton of art. We want to bring our art to areas that maybe don’t see circus or modern performances.”

At each production, donations are collected. Foundry has worked with Denver’s The Center — the largest LGBTQ center in the Rocky Mountain region — Urban Peak, which helps homeless youth, and Homeward Alliance, a nonprofit that supports various programs to those who are homeless or at risk of becoming  homeless.

For the shows at the Dairy, Foundry has partnered with Conscious Alliance — the Boulder-based nonprofit that works towards hunger relief through art- and concert-based food drives.

Parts of “Sonder” were inspired by Lindsley’s brothers’ experiences with drug addiction and their journey into recovery.

“The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection,” said Lindsley. “My family has personally had this struggle. My passion and drive comes from experiencing these things personally. Wanting to change the stigma is very important to me.”

(Zach Wiegert/ Courtesy photo)

Members of the Circus Foundry pose in Denver.

Experiences of other performers are also woven throughout the contemporary production that abstractly deals with heavy themes like racism, homophobia, class disparity and sexism, yet manages to be appropriate for all ages. Classical, House and Latin music are among the varied styles that add to each scene.

“The whole show is defined by the relationships between each character,” said Cummings.

In keeping with the causal, accessible feel, performers have forgone elaborate costumes for everyday threads, like jeans and flannels, allowing the message and movement to surface strongly. A stripped-down set, with a wooden box that acts as a bus stop, a bench and a table throughout the hour-and-a-half production, allows for an imaginative and captivating slice of hardship and transformation.

“Costumes mean nothing compared to what the person inside of them is doing,” said Cummings.

With long late-night rehearsals in random warehouse spaces, diligent grassroots marketing and an unrelenting passion to create, Foundry has started to make its mark on the art scene throughout the West. Described as “life-changing” by certain audience members, “Sonder” offers a refreshing and raw taste of circus arts for the “thinking man.”

“It’s way more than just elephants,” said Cummings. “This isn’t Barnum & Bailey.”

Foundry hopes to keep future productions in this vein, perhaps exploring the topics of homelessness, mental health and death in upcoming offerings sure to evoke a range of emotions from viewers.

“The most rewarding part of this so far has been seeing how many people we’ve made happy,” said Lindsley. “I didn’t expect to make as big of an impact on the lives of others.”

If you go

What: Circus Foundry presents “Sonder”
When: 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Dairy Arts Center’s Gordon Gamm Theater, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
Cost: $25
More info:

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