At a loss for words – Circa’s Humans

by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal

The entire time I was watching Circa’s performance of Humans, I wondered how I was possibly going to put into words what I was seeing onstage. The ten member troupe of acrobatic artists was executing feats I had never seen done before. The Australian based company combined contemporary dance moves with cutting edge circus artistry for an intense 70 minute program. The performance was held at The Annenberg Center and was featured as part of the Fringe Festival.

Circa showcased an ensemble of multi-skilled circus performers. Formed in 2004 under the direction of Yaron Lifschitz, the company has a repertoire of shows that tour world-wide. In Humans, they took the audience on a journey to delve into how we handle the burdens that we encounter in life. “How much weight can we carry? Who can we trust to support our load?” Trust was a major physical theme throughout the program.  The artists catapulted themselves at each other with complete abandon. Often times, they were launched from one precarious position to another by their fellow performers. The level of daring and fearlessness was what made the stunts so spectacular. Frequent applause and audible gasps were heard throughout the program.

Company members were first seen during the pre-show time when patrons were arriving to their seats. They entered the stage one at a time in street clothes, undressed down to their costume, and left their clothes onstage. Most of the audience, myself included, watched distractedly as we were also looking through our program and settling into our seats. It was a bit of surprise when the show started with one of the dancers emerging from the pile of clothes with movements as supple as an elastic band. I didn’t realize anyone was underneath.

The opening group number was powerfully executed by the six men and four women who made up the ensemble. This is where the company set the tone for the rest of the program with a display of full throttle athleticism. Some of the artists entered the stage with tumbling passes that ended straddling another performer who was lying on the floor. Several times it felt like my heart was in my throat. There were a few minor wobbles and mishaps that only seemed to remind us of the degree of difficulty. The partnering work was also intricate and skillful. Much of it was weight bearing movement with both the men and women equally sharing the physical responsibility. It highlighted their strength while also reminding us of the question, “Who can we rely on?”

The show offered a balanced variety of numbers. Aerialists Bridie Hooper, Piri Goodman, and Daniel O’Brien were featured on the straps showcasing their dexterity and flexibility. Some lighter, comedic pieces included the cast in a fruitless effort to lick their elbows. The music was continuous, the curtain never closed, and the stage was never empty. The result was a fluid and well-paced program. Circa proved a memorable production in the final weekend of another diversely packed Fringe Festival.

About Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.

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