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Alexandria’s Sam Landa Brings an Electrifying Acrobatic Hamlet to the DMV

Alexandria’s Sam Landa Brings an Electrifying Acrobatic Hamlet to the DMV

Jordan Wright
Special To The Zebra 

Alexandra Bilder and the ensemble of Hamlet. (Photo Emily Lord)

Twenty-four-year-old Alexandria, VA native Sam Landa will bring his New York Circus Project to our area to perform an electrifying acrobatic HamletStarting its DC run on July 31, he describes the interdisciplinary theater and circus company he founded in 2023 in this way. “Both circus and Shakespeare are perceived as aged forms. By matching the heightened sense of risk that circus delivers to a high-stakes narrative like Hamlet, the show exceeds the original intentions of each of the forms, delighting the audience in the process.” Landa, who will act as director for this groundbreaking show, continues his work as a consultant of acrobatic and aerial elements on Broadway productions.

Sam Landa (Photo Carrie Kizuka)

Apart from his parents’ lifelong support of his creative interests, Landa’s early influences in our region include his study with The Washington School of Ballet’s legendary Artistic Director and Choreographer Septime Webre. “When I danced at The Washington School of Ballet as a child Septime Webre was a very big influence on me. He used classic novels and great works of literature and turned them into ballets, sourcing from traditional stories that you wouldn’t expect to see a ballet come out of. The idea of working with non-traditional stories influenced me to choose Hamlet because it’s a bold choice. I wanted to look back and say, it might be risky, but I pulled it off.”

Other influences stem from his early education in Alexandria schools where he attended George Mason Elementary, GW Middle School and Alexandria High School before going to The National Circus School [École Nationale de Cirque] in Montreal where he studied under Cirque du Soleil’s masters. He told me one of his biggest influences here was his elementary school PE teacher. “Julie Westcott was always very supportive of me, even at a young age and especially for a boy interested in non-traditional performance art.” Another strong influence was his dance teacher Luis Torres at the Washington School of Ballet and now the Ballet Master of the Hong Kong Ballet, “He taught me to work hard. Every chance I get to see him I feel invigorated afterwards.”

The aerialist is Angela Zhang (Photo Emily Lord)

Many of the company’s performances are free outdoor performances– offering local communities the opportunity to experience live theater coupled with aerial acrobatics. Two years in the making, Landa’s version of Hamlet was his senior project at Columbia University. When I asked him why Shakespeare and why Hamlet, he replied, “I wanted to pick something that would intrigue people when they heard there was a circus based on Hamlet. I wanted people to not know what they were walking into, and Hamlet is a notoriously complex play. I didn’t want something that had been done in circuses. In the case of Hamlet, everybody knows the story and I can focus on the themes that I want to.”

Landa has owned the company’s rigging system since he first began to perform in circus eight years ago. “One thing that is really important to me is trying to change circus as an art and entertainment form. I see ballet and opera performances with sweeping and emotional stories, where singing and dance tell the stories, and I want audiences to view circus in the same way. This show is grounded in a narrative with a beginning, middle and end.”

The aerialist is Julia Baccellieri. (Photo by Maya Shkolnik)

A number of the company’s performers are alums from Cirque du Soleil. Costumes are by Designer Lily Cunicelli who works in film and theater on- and off-Broadway as do many of the performers.  Lighting Designer Nate Files has worked on American IdolDancing with the Stars and Blue Man Group as well as concerts for Miley Cyrus and Blackpink.

The contortionist is Ilse Baryshnikov. (Photo Howard Sherman)

Selecting Union Market Dock 5 to mount this production, Landa plans to build out the space to resemble a traditional theater setting. The Union Market District is entering a new phase in the development of entertainment arts, nightlife and theatrical shows and he is able configure the space to suit his needs. “I’m hoping this production with them is the start of a new relationship, because I would love to come back to the area.”

Hamlet poster designed by Sawyer Sadd, featuring Ilse Baryshnikov, Jacob Crow, and Madi Ward. (Courtesy photo)

Performances begin July 31 and run to August 11 at Union Market, Dock 5, 1309 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20002. For tickets and information visit or email [email protected]

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