Kinetix is an exciting live performance at Busch Gardens, with stimulating visual effects, pyrotechnics, music, singing, live musicians, dancing and acrobatics. There are world class specialty acts, including a fire cube juggler, a hula hoop juggler, a BMX rider and a jump roping team.
At 9 p.m. each night, the show begins in Gwazi Field, the icing on the park’s Summer Nights cake. As darkness falls, the upbeat rock/pop hit music and laser lights re-energize even the all-day visitors who have walked all over the park in the summer heat.
Kinetix is included with the park admission. There are plenty of seats, but they fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to come in when the area opens at 8 p.m. All seats have a clear view of the show, but seen up close, these live performers have smiles and energy that is infectious.
It’s a very intense, physical thirty minutes. Featured B-boy Luis Rivera said, “We only do one show each night, but we give it all we’ve got, just put it all out there, nothing held back.”
There are two featured B-Boy performers, Luis Rivera and Simon Mendoza, who alternate in Kinetix, sharing the role. They both rap as well as dance. Along with the planned choreography, each B-boy has some time on stage to freestyle with some of their own favorite dance moves.
B-boys – or break-boys – are male dancers who perform breaking or b-boying, the acrobatic hip-hop dance style called breakdancing. B-girls are female breakdancers. Male or females can be called breakers. Breaking or b-boying – breakdancing – can be danced to both hip-hop and other genres of music that are often remixed to prolong the musical breaks.
If you saw Kinetix in the summer of 2010, you can go again now and you won’t be watching a rerun. Rivera said, ‘There is all new music and dancing in this year’s show, and about half the performers are new. There are new specialty acts, like the awesome BMX stunts performed by Dave Campbell.’
There are three featured male singers and three featured female singers who alternate their roles in Kinetix. The male vocalists are Frank Edmondson, Josh Howell and Calvin Jones. The female vocalists are Samantha Leigh, Robyn Martin and Sarah Meredith. All the singers have great vocal range and power, leading the show forward, and tying the exciting acts together that quickly enter and exit the stage.
Kinetix earned a top award at the 2010 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) annual exposition. The show was selected as the Brass Ring Award winner for “Best Overall Production” in its budgetary category. This is a highly contested and prestigious award in the amusement industry, which recognizes excellence in live entertainment at theme parks, zoos and attractions worldwide. Robyn Martin and Josh Howell were also awarded Honorable Mentions as Best Female and Best Male Performer for their performances in Kinetix.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the park’s Party Starters interact with the guests, dancing throughout the park during the day. They perform and then hold a Dance-Off competition in the Desert Grill theater. Afterward, they go over to Gwazi Park to dance with the crowd before Kinetix begins.
A park DJ starts the fun, taking the stage as the guests enter Gwazi Field at 8 pm. DJ Dax Quijano leads the crowd in games and dancing, building the excitement before the show starts. A hula hoop race is held, and then beloved Elmo visits the waiting crowd for a quick parade around the seats.
Meeting the performers and the people behind the scenes at BGTB – Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay – it’s clear they share the zest for their work that BGTB dancer Devin Collins describes as ‘my enthusiastic life.’ Singers and dancers may perform in multiple shows, learning a number of different parts, leaping at the chance to take on new challenges. Collins has performed in Katonga, Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, as a Stilt Walker in Jungala, as a Party Starter, and as a Feind in Howl-O-Scream. Rivera has also performed in Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, as a Stilt Walker in Jungala, as a Party Starter, in Club Envy at Howl-O-Scream and for the past two summers is featured in Kinetix.
Parts can be interchangeable within the shows as well. Dreama Davidson, performer and dance trainer for Kinetix, appeared in ten different roles in Katonga, the longest running show at BGTB, with 8,842 performances in the Moroccan Palace. In Kinetix, Davidson learned each track – or part – so that she could train each female dancer, since people move in and out of different positions in the daily performance.
‘In Kinetix, the visual effects, the fog, the laser lights, the sound effects, add to the whole adrenalin rush,’ Davidson said. ‘It is a real performance high, and it keeps you on your A game.’
Many young people dream of becoming professional performers. Cari Robaldo, a 16-year-old Pinellas County resident, wants to work at BGTB when she is old enough to audition at age 18. She recently met show Director Stacey Goode, and talked with some of the performers in Kinetix about what it takes to become a part of the BGTB Entertainment Department.
‘In 2008, I auditioned as a dancer three months in a row,’ Rivera said to Robaldo. ‘An opportunity came up for a stiltwalker, and I got a call back. I had the physical strength and agility to do that. There is also cross training for different jobs in the entertainment department.’
At BuschGardensTalent.com, information is a provided about upcoming casting needs and auditions. There are part time and full time career possibilities for dancers, singers, actors, costumed characters, stiltwalkers, musicians, stage technicians, and seasonal performers.
Rivera has been breakdancing for ten years. ‘Working at Busch Gardens is the funnest job I ever had. My track in Kinetix is Breaker Boy One,’ he explained. ‘The show is broken into tracks – each track or part has a specific thing to do, a section of the show. A little kid told his parents after a Kinetix show, ‘I want to dance like that guy.’
‘I become emotionally involved because I never know who’s life I am going to affect,’ Rivera said. ‘When I appeared in Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, a lady going through cancer told me the show made her more relaxed, and made her feel good about life.’
Rivera went on to say, ‘As much as we affect people, people affect us as well. When I worked as a character on stilts in Jungala, I was three or four feet higher than everyone else. It’s the most insane feeling in the world. First, the characters all dance together. Then the characters pose for pictures and interact with the guests. I love knowing I am making someone happy, or maybe inspiring someone.’
‘I was Hakiem the Walking Stick – when a group of special needs children came to see us perform. A deaf boy wanted to shake Hakiem’s hand. He wasn’t being noticed by his teachers, but I saw him and waited until he got the chance to come up to me. His face just lit up when he signed to the adults with him, ‘I shook his hand!’ I really felt overwhelmed when I realized I could bring so much happiness, just by shaking his hand, just by doing my job.’
Stacey Goode, Director of Kinetix and Senior Manager of Production, has worked on many different shows for almost 18 years at Busch Gardens. She is an experienced dancer, with a background in ballet, jazz and modern dance. She is now working on casting for Halloween and Christmas productions.
Although Goode looks petite, dance trainer Davidson said, ‘She is a powerhouse!’
Even though there are featured acts and tracks, Goode stresses that Kinetix is an ensemble, a united performance of the full number of singers, players, or performers.
‘Blocking in the show is important,’ Goode said, ‘because everybody has to go to the same spots on the stage. On the front of the stage there are numbers, 1 through 7 on the left, 1 through 7 on the right. No matter who is dancing, the blocking has to be exactly the same.’
Blocking is a theater term which refers to the exact movement and positioning of performers. The director plans the blocking during rehearsals, telling performers where they should move and stand for the best dramatic effect and the best visual effect, coordinated with the lighting cues.
‘The show is always changing. Even when you start getting comfortable with the show, there will still be some parts that change, new things that are added as we refine the show,’ they agreed.
‘We plan our shows a year in advance,’ Goode said. ‘We continually audition featured acts, then choose the ones we will want to use in specific shows. For a contemporary show like Kinetix, there are a variety of elements, many different layers. Kinetix is the finale of the Summer Nights experience.’
‘We do want to take it to the next level,’ Goode said. ‘We constantly work on exceeding expectations.’
‘We have some amazing talent in the parks. A lot of them have studied dance a good portion of their lives to do their craft,’ she said. ‘It takes heart and soul, blood and sweat – they have to be passionate about it, be doing something they love.’
‘Some of our performers will stay a few years, and others go on to professional opportunities in Broadway, television, cruise ships or other things in the entertainment industry,’ Goode said.
‘We have a great group of Party Starters, outgoing, friendly, personable people, a great asset to Summer Nights,’ said Goode. ‘It takes a special person to interact with people, teach line dancing, and lead our Dance Challenge competition. There are about 9 working each day, about 20 of them total. A lot of them are college students, working part time. They work at the theme park and at Adventure Island.’
Goode advised that when young people like Robaldo want to come into auditions, ‘They need to be prepared. Know what you are auditioning for. If you are auditioning as a dancer, have a short choreographed piece ready. Singers should have a song they are ready to sing.’
For more performer advice, as well as interviews with Dreama Davidson, Frank Edmondson, Dax Quijano and Russian circus performer Mikhail Sozonov, please be sure to click here and read the rest of this article:
Catch Kinetix at Busch Gardens Part Two
Click on the Second photo on the left and view a great slide show, with photos of Kinetix and other performers at Busch Gardens!
Catch Kinetix at Busch Gardens Part Two
National Dance Week: Busch Gardens Celebrates Kinetix – Inside Busch Gardens
View Videos of Kinetix 2011 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on You Tube
Kinetix at Busch Gardens Tampa explodes into Summer Nights by Erik Yates, Busch Gardens Examiner
Busch Gardens Kinetix Earns Top Award
Kinetix on BGTNation, a blog for Busch Gardens Tampa Bay by Anthony Armenia