Striking a chord: Boxing and chamber music duke it out at Gleason’s

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It’s a battle of the band.

A small ensemble of classical musicans with a rebellious streak called the Street Cannibals are playing at the legendary DUMBO boxing gym Gleason’s, ringing out chamber pieces in between the bells as young pugilists set their own beat to the sweet science.

“Generally what the Street Cannibals do is simultaneous levels of translation,” said the group’s conductor and cellist Dan Barrett. “The dance and the music translates some of the weight and principles of the boxing.”

The event called “Strike!” is a novel combination of music, dance, and exhibition fighting from a pack of Gleason’s younger boxers. Instead of ring girls, brief dance and music numbers will punctuate the rounds, and longer sets will be the main events between the evening’s three fights.

The transition from discord to harmony will be seamless, Barrett said.

“The audience should not see the mechanics of the watch, they should tell the time,” he said — somewhat cryptically.

Barrett is convinced that the subtle blend of sound, movement, and closed fists has philosophical implications, and he hopes the show will instruct his audience about an important aspect of human nature: battle.

“One of the things we aim to illuminate is that strife is an essential component of our nature, so its important to create a stylistic friction,” said Barrett. “So it’s very celestial setting, a prelude by Bach, with shadow boxing set against it — that kind of aesthetic friction is very powerful.”

And for anyone who thinks Gleason’s Gym is the last place to hold a concert, for Barrett’s purpose, it’s one of the only places.

“It’s a rugged looking gym,” he said. “It’s not polished, it’s not lovely, but it has a powerful action to it. The beautiful thing is it’s not laid out with any consideration towards decorations, everything is geared toward substance.”

But Barret isn’t all theory. Much like a boxing champ, he’s interested in winning.

“Another thing that doesn’t hurt,” Barrett added, “It’s home to 132 world champions.”

“Strike!” at Gleason’s Gym [77 Front St. between Main and Washington streets in DUMBO, (718) 797–2872,]. March 16, 8 pm. $20. $15 for Gleason’s Gym members and students.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 10:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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