Circa’s CIRCA is the incomparable movement concoction being presented until March 4th by the Celebrity Series at Paramount Theater. This thrilling Australian troupe delivers a unique form of circus performance that is part dance, part physical comedy, and a large part acrobatics.
This review appears in EdgeBoston.com.
The convolutions of their limbs, the otherworldly distortion of balance, and the profound strength of these dancers make for exhausting viewing. It is impossible to look away or to relax in the face of such dangerous beauty.
Trained in a mixture of gymnastics and circus skills, these muscular entertainers flaunt their flesh even as they take pratfalls and inject body wit. What a relief to see them not so much challenge as ignore traditional dance limitations: men lift men; women lift men; the physicality has neither gender nor size constraints.
Think of most other professional dance companies: the guys have clean-cut haircuts and smoothly shaved faces and the women’s hair is uniformly pulled back into smoothed buns above Angelina-Jolie-skinny bodies.
In "Circa," we see seven distinct personalities: Scott Grove the butchest guy wears a topknot; Jarred Dewey sports a pretty, asymmetrical hairstyle; a couple of the men have facial hair; and Emma McGovern dances with a bald head. Valerie Doucet has glorious sturdy thighs and Michelle Obama arms.
Their circus skills are not dependent on the expensive, bulky accoutrements of rivals like Cirque du Soleil. In fact, all their equipment probably fits in a suitcase that an airline wouldn’t charge extra for. They convert a simple 12" silver ring into a contortion act in which a muscular man turns himself inside out as he climbs into and escapes its bounds. A trapeze, a rope, and a couple of ribbons hung from the ceiling give these performers a chance to stop our heartbeats as they dangle by their heels or plunge unfettered towards the floor. What Emma McGovern does with a red rubber band is worth the price of the ticket.
Mostly they reinterpret the human body, turning feet into hands, hands into feet, fingers into legs, and bodies into jump ropes. Their approach is unhurried, considered, and intensely creative. As they fling themselves into each other’s arms to be twirled or tossed around, the profound level of trust becomes a bond the audience must buy into. With a gentle tap one dancer will move his own knee into an insane angle or tip over another dancer who is balancing on her forearm. The biggest dancer Scott Grove uses deep breathing to blow up his body into an astonishing parody of the Schwarzenegger pose in a piece called "Tumble."
The music is a mix of lyrical French and unobtrusive atonality. The one loud English-language song "Perhaps" is a high-energy moment. One delicious interactive performance, focused on the dancer’s hands, makes its own soundtrack by convincing the audience to snap its fingers. Some pieces are performed in absolute silence, with only the contractions of the dancers’ muscles and the interplay of their bodies dominating the experience.
And speaking of dominance, one piece named "Heels" is outright erotic; its kinky narrative conveys a moving domme/sub experience. Emma McGovern dons sparkly red stilettos to step on Jarred Dewey’s relaxed, accepting body. Perching on his thighs, his shoulders, and his back, she truly walks all over him to his deep satisfaction.
Special Kudos to artistic director Yaron Lifschitz and to the lighting director Jason Organ for providing pools of light with which the dancers played. In 75 uninterrupted minutes, which ended in an extended standing ovation, Circa’s "CIRCA" took Boston’s dance lovers into their exceptional physical and artistic world.
Circa’s CIRCA runs through March 4, 2012 at the Paramount Theatre, 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA. For more information, visit the Celebrity Series website.