Sophisticated cirque chic

juggling

Join the club: The air becomes a whirl of juggling clubs. Pictures: Production Neuvart/Valérie Remise

Cirque Éloize Cirkopolis

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

DANCE Consortium has brought us a very different Cirque Éloize than the troupe who brought us iD at the Hippodrome back in 2011. They have become a crossover act, marrying circus to modern dance.

Instead of the wham – bam - wow factor of a theatrical circus, a big top on stage, a show living permanently on the edge of danger and disaster we have a more elegant, circumspect interpretation, cirque chic, from this Montreal-based company.

It opens with a scene of wage slavery, the drudgery of an office environment, the processing of endless sheets of paper all in a drab, colourless grey – a recurring theme – all to a video projection on to a huge screen of vertical blinds at the rear of the stage, a screen with changing industrial and mechanical images zooming in and out throughout the show.

Against the monochrome, Metropolis background the appearance of Léa Toran Jenner, from Germany, in a bright red dress with a Cyr wheel, a large metal hoop, is a revelation like a ray of sunshine on a dark, cloudy day.

As she sweeps and spins around the stage with acrcyr wheelobatic beauty within the hoop to a haunting soundtrack you can only marvel at the skill and how elegant circus can be. It is a strangely moving performance.

There is a juggling extravaganza with 10 jugglers and clubs flying everywhere with a finale seeing all jugglers exchanging clubs with two jugglers on a slowly turning desk which, apart from looking spectacular demands a high level of technical skill – and trust from the two men on the desk in the middle of the fusillade of clubs.

The gentle, flowing beauty, and athletic skills of the Cyr wheel

Every circus needs a clown, a role taken by Britain’s Ashley Carr, who is the original wage slave from the opening and is a link to acts with his own poignant moment with a clothes rail to close act one and open act two.

Act two is more circus orientated than dance with trapeze and a Chinese pole which sees Canadians Olivier Poitras, Maude Arseneault and Mikaël Bruyère-L’abbé climbing a pole as easily as stairs to perform breathtaking acrobatics as well as hurtling headfirst down the pole stopping dead with their heads centimetres above the ground. Mistime that and you really would stop dead.

We had five clubs being juggled at once and a German wheel, which is two hoops joined by bars and looking like some mediaeval machine of war – or torture - with men inside seemingly risking life and limb, or at least being crushed as it rolled along.

We had shows of strength and balance from Ugo Laffolay, hand balancing and acrobats and banquine, that circus art where a flyer, in this case Canadian Charlotte O’Sullivan, is hurled into the air and lands using a sort of human trampoline of the hands of the rest of the act.

Then there is another circus favourite, the teeterboard, or springboard as it is known here, that seesaw affair used to launch a man into space, or at least twisting and somersaulting high in to the air. They make it look so easy you wonder how hard it can be to do graceful spins and turns and land nonchalantly on your feet. Not that I would suggest trying it unless you like hospital food.

This is a more sophisticated show from the 13 strong cast of Cirque Éloize but all that elegance and embrace of dance comes at a price; missing are the wow factor and sheer unrelenting pace, variety, streetwise attitude and mindblowing excitement of iD.

Is it a circus or dance troupe? Or both? Co-directed by Jeannot Painchaud and choreographer Dave St Pierre, it is beautifully performed and presented, showing silky movement and consummate skill, but even with the fine balance of its circus performers, at times there is a danger of falling between two stools – and I did miss the trial bike climbing the walls or skipping and jumping over volunteers and the trampowall. To 28-03-15. 

Roger Clarke

25-03-15

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