Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Traces, or A Circus for People Who Hate Circuses

I'm not a circus person. The thought of having to sit through one makes me a little queasy. If you're anything like me, don't let the word "circus" in the plot description of 7 Fingers's Traces freak you out. 7 Fingers was founded in Montreal in 2002 to bring circus to a human scale, according to program notes. Cirque du Soleil had similar beginnings, but those shows still feel larger than life. Traces feels less about spectacle and more about street art. And let's be honest, it doesn't hurt that the young cast is easy on the eyes.

In Traces, the performers wear regular clothes--no need for elaborate costumes. They take turns introducing themselves with birth dates (warning: if you were born before the late '80s, you will probably feel old), hometowns, heights, weights, and adjectives. Bradley Henderson is reliable and the oldest. Mason Ames is clumsy. Mathieu Cloutier is from Quebec. Valérie Benoît-Charbonneau, the only female in the group, is flirtatious. Philippe Normand-Jenny's parents are psychologists. Xia Zhengqi goes by Daqi and is insecure. Florian Zumkehr (pictured) is romantic.

Sometimes it doesn't even feel like you're watching a performance, just friends goofing off, as the seven make fun of each other or play around with skateboards and basketballs. But then they perform mind-blowing acrobatics like balancing on chairs, jumping through hoops, and climbing on poles (direction and choreography are shared by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider). The show is very dance-heavy as well and incorporates elements of both hip hop and ballet. The tricks don't always land, but they will get up and try again, and that also adds to the humanness of the show.

This is a limited engagement at the Union Square Theatre through October 9 [Update: Traces has been extended through January 1], but I wouldn't wait to see it. If you need any more convincing to see this show, just watch a few of the videos on the Traces site. For bargain-hunters, $25 rush tickets are available the day of the performance.

Photo credit: Michael Meseke

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