We lift each other in surprising ways

Andy Horowitz is a performing artist who defies labels as easily as he defies gravity. He uses movement, but he’s not a dancer. He makes people laugh, but he’s not a comedian. He tumbles about, but he’s not a gymnast.

Horowitz is the co-founder of Galumpha, a New York-based trio that uses acrobatics, visual effects, physical comedy and choreography to bring to life what he calls “a world of imagination, beauty, muscle and merriment.”

Galumpha is set to make its San Francisco debut with a three-week stint at the Project Artaud Theater, starting Friday, May 7.

So what can audiences expect when they settle in for a Galumpha performance? “We are three men,” says Horowitz of himself, co-founder Greg O’Brien and Marlon Torres, “acrobatic dancers and physical comedians, and we lift each other in surprising ways.” About 400 ways, by his count.

Over the years, Galumpha (and Horowitz’s previous incarnation, Second Hand Dance Company) were compared to Momix or, as he puts it, “a low-tech Cirque du Soleil.” But Horowitz says his troupe is different: “We’re avant-garde and aggressively funny. We break down the ‘fourth wall’ often, talking to the audience between numbers and exploring the outer realms of what’s physically possible.”

With a wiry frame more Jackie Chan than Jackie Mason, Horowitz is a superior athlete who spent several years in Taiwan training in martial arts. (He speaks fluent Chinese and moonlights as a court translator in his hometown of Binghamton, N.Y.)

He’s also a committed Jew.

Born in New York, Horowitz grew up the son of an anthropology professor, which meant the family lived in such far-flung places as Africa, Europe and the Caribbean before settling in Binghamton.

He began martial arts training as a boy, extending his fascination into adulthood with his years in Taiwan as an Oberlin exchange student. It was there he discovered acrobatics.

His connection to Judaism was rekindled after starting a family.

“All of a sudden, something strange and wonderful happened,” he says of his marriage to wife Carol. “I was face to face with how Jewish we both were.”

Their son now attends Binghamton’s Hillel Academy, an Orthodox institution that has had an impact on the entire family. “He knows the whole Birkat Hamazon,” says Horowitz. “He’s brought more Judaism into the household.”

Horowitz hasn’t had many opportunities to inject a Jewish element into his work, but Galumpha does have a bit that includes a yard-long Yemenite shofar.

It’s still in the repertoire, as are scores of other short routines Galumpha draws on like a rock band with a set list.

Why the name Galumpha? They took the name from Lewis Carroll, who coined the term in his classic poem “Jabberwocky.” Says Horowitz: “We have a certain lift that looks like a camel on stage. It has a clumsy gait, and ‘galumph ‘ means to walk with clumsy gait.”

But there’s nothing clumsy about his work.

These days, Horowitz still loves to perform, but spending so much time on the road does take a toll. “Most artists would celebrate a dream come true,” he says of his troupe’s success. “But for me, the agony of being away [from the family] is starting to get to me.”

And though he’s no spring chicken anymore, Horowitz, who has been performing and touring for more than 15 years, remains surprisingly lithe and limber, especially for someone who takes a physical beating night after night. “I’m like a Dodge Dart,” he says, “made out of tough stuff.”

Galumpha performs 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. on Sundays, May 7 through May 30, at Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida St., S.F. Tickets: $15-$25. Information: (415) 392-4400 online at www.cityboxoffice.com.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.