“… breakthrough artists in their field, creating highly choreographed, sophisticated work. It’s like nothing else.”
Ella Baff Artistic Director, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival USA
“S” is sinuous, seductive, sophisticated, sensual and savage.
Inspired by the shape, grammatical functions and sound of the 19th letter of the alphabet, “S” will fill the stage with the raw immediacy of performers at their physical and emotional limits.
A powerfully emotive work, “S” celebrates Circa’s essential manyness – a physical ode to plurality that extends the possibilities of human strength and flexibility through the daring interplay of complex acrobatics. The ensemble will fill the stage with a beautiful mélange of bodies performed to intoxicating music from Kimmo Pohjonen, Samuli Kosminen & the Kronos Quartet.
World Premiere Brisbane, Australia 2012
Duration 85 minutes
Touring History Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hungary, France, USA, UK, Germany
Isabelle Pare, Le Devoir, “S for a symphony of bodies”, published 10 July 2013, translated by Lynne Ter Metz
With a stripped down scenery that serves as a backdrop to the clash of bodies, the Australian company CIRCA delivered a stunning (sublime) performance Tuesday night, celebrating the paradox of strength and beauty combined.
On its fourth visit to Montreal, CIRCA stunned the audience at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde with S, a contemplative ballet that decidedly moves circus to the side of contemporary dance, even more than with their previous creations.
This ode to the body’s fluidity begins very slowly on the barest of stage and is seldom interrupted by applause. A female acrobat’s body lying on the floor convulses to the regular sound of loud breathing. Oblique lighting brushes other artist’s bodies, emphasizing the contour of tensed muscles.
One immediately recognizes the minimalist hallmark of this company which renews circus by exploring a new acrobatic vocabulary.
On a dark background, crisscrossed by green and black lighting, the acrobatic floor games and incongruous lifts create abstract scenes of an intriguing beauty.
As if engaged in a courtship, the bodies of men and women fit together in perfect harmony, or collide in mock battles. Seized by the head, hair, even teeth (!), Acrobats create a complex human architecture.
CIRCA excels at highlighting paradoxes. In tests of strength, women carry their partners or climb mountains of muscles. In a tableau, acrobats, tested, move with delicate bowls filled with water on the head.
In many a crescendo, the tempo quickens and gives way to the “launching” of acrobats who then fly through the air, propelled by their colleagues.
Physical performance in CIRCA is omnipresent, yet never ostentatious; as demonstrated thru the maximum stretching of the interpreters’ anatomy, as from the strength required by acrobats of both sexes to lift and carry their partners.
A striking acrobatic hoops number crowns this presentation, where bodies are in perfect symbiosis. We now understand better why CIRCA chose S to name this piece celebrating harmony in its multiplicity.
Herald Sun “Circus review: S by Circa, Darebin Arts Centre”, published 28 May 2014 ★★★★
DON’T worry if you haven’t heard of Circa, one of Australia’s top circus companies. Based in Brisbane, they spend most of the time keeping up with demand overseas. This year a regional tour is also on the go, so they’ve been spreading Circa love closer to home.
This isn’t big-top tents and roving clowns, though. A Circa production is a highly choreographed ensemble production, more akin to a contemporary dance show than standard circus fare.
“S” occurs on an unadorned stage with a white floor tilted into a diamond shape. The show is inspired by the swirly, sizzling glory of the letter S. From this take-off point, it’s 85 minutes of frenetic acrobatic highs, contemplative interludes, and enough injections of paraphernalia such as hoops, tissu and Chinese straps to stay true to circus roots.
As is often the company’s practice, director Yaron Lifschitz devised the content with the cast. It has a collaborative feel within its tight staging and even though there are vignettes of solos or duos, it never strays from its ensemble ethos.
Despite an overly prescriptive musical montage (including Kronos Quartet and Samuli Kosminen), “S” remains ensconced in Circa’s fairly understated vibe. Probably because we’re always reminded (through simple glances between performers or casual entrances) that normal humans are behind all the ridiculously difficult physical displays.
Ordinary gestures and emotional themes unfurl into very un-ordinary bursts of kinetic prowess. Unusual interpretations of familiar circus acts and creative uses of equipment elevate stock standard ideas into something totally other. Why handstand on one person’s head when you can use two? Why not use the fabric of the tissu as if it’s a sturdy Chinese pole? Nothing seems out of the question for Circa.
Like all Circa’s offerings, “S” is really about the performers and all the possibilities and wonder within their varying physicalities. From stocky to slender, short to tall and each highly virtuosic in their own way, the seven cast members all contribute plenty to the party.
There’s strong man Casey Douglas who’s surprisingly nimble for such a beefy fellow. The tiny but fierce Jessica Connell bases men on her shoulders and uses hula hoops stunningly. Brittannie Portelli is a muscle-ripped powerhouse who can flip off her wrists, forearms, shoulders and probably even her nose.
Along with Duncan West, Kimberly Rossi, Nathan Boyle and Daniel O’Brien, they burst forth with seemingly unending possibilities for movement invention. Team that with their commitment to working as a whole unit, rather than individual circus stars, and that ticks the boxes for something “S”pecial.
Canoe, “S by Circa: A savagely controlled ballet”, published 9 July 2013, translated by Lynne Ter Metz
MONTREAL – Sometimes sweet and sensuous, sometimes dark or wild, Australian company Circa’s, “S”, brilliantly mixes dance and circus. In its North American premiere Tuesday night at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, this acrobatic ballet of great beauty celebrates the human body in all its glory. It is indeed the power and strength of the human body that is featured in this bold show programmed in the Montreal Completely Circus festival.
The performance opens to the sound of a whisper. Lit by a single bulb, a body lies on stage. It stretches and contracts to the rhythm of this deafening breath. Bit by bit, the other acrobats join in to give life to this lovely choreography.
We are very soon seduced by the grace and elegance of these four men and three women. Wearing only minimal body suits, the acrobats impress us with their agility and recklessness.
There seems to be no limits to what they can do with their bodies and that of their fellows on stage – raising each other at arms length, catapulting into the air, and climbing over each other. Women grab onto men’s heads and men climb onto women’s backs, hanging on until they crumble under their weight. We hold our breath as acrobats form three people high pyramids. And utters cries of amazement on seeing them faking or even staging falls.
As if they were Lego blocks, the bodies pile up, fall apart and collide, intertwine and swing around. In this show, bodies are the only props. We are witness to human sculptures in perpetual motion. The company demonstrates its ingenuity with clashing bodies by sticking a microphone to an acrobat’s bare chest. It is when an acrobat is physically prodded and pushed around by his acrobatic partner, that we fully understand the extent of their power and prowess.
While “S” focuses primarily on a combination of dance and acrobatics to impress its audience, astonishing numbers of hula-hoop and aerial straps bring this wild performance aesthetics and brutal control to completion. Composed by the Kronos Quartet (Kimmo Pohjonen and Samuli Kosminen), music is a vector of emotions in this scene stripped of frills.
This is the second time the Montreal Circus Festival Completely invites this circus troupe known for their daring penchant for carnal. In the same vein as “S”, their previous creation “Wunderkammer”, had bewitched the audience with choreographies merging dance and circus. The company was last seen by the Quebec audience in February 2012, as part of the festival Montréal en Lumière.
Australia’s Circa will be at TNM until July 13 to present their “S”, a show demonstrating unparalleled restraint in order to make room for the extraordinary beauty of the human body.
Cameron Pegg, The Australian “Exploration of human strength and intimacy”, published September 10 2012
BRISBANE ensemble Circa has moved quickly to tap the growing global demand for contemporary circus, performing across five continents since 2006. Opening this year’s Brisbane Festival, S is a much more meditative affair than its predecessor, Wunderkammer. The first 20 minutes comprise a fluid sequence of movement that challenges the audience to decide where one act begins and another finishes (and also when to applaud).
Viewers are rewarded for their patience with small surprises: a male performer slowly presses to handstand using a partner’s outstretched leg for support; human pyramids playfully come to grief; a head almost touches the ground as a body is flung from one side of the stage to another. If you come to the circus expecting drum rolls and fireworks, you’re in danger of being disappointed here.
Circa’s point of difference is its small, multidisciplinary ensemble and an aspiration to elevate effort and intimacy to an art form. The same performer who manipulates a halo of hula hoops changes tack five minutes later, holding a male company member while hanging upside down.
Two female performers navigate an intricate acrobatic duet while tethered by a strap held between their teeth. Jason Organ’s lighting design reaches a crescendo in a stirring aerial section, but wisely pulls back to spotlight the human body as it moves through space using strength and momentum alone.
In the production’s closing moment, water-filled bowls are balanced in enterprising ways: the stillness of the scene is punctuated with acrobatics that add humour and risk. Made-to-measure music recorded by the Kronos Quartet underscores this slow-burning but satisfying 70 minutes in the theatre.
Physicality of a different kind features in Mass, New Zealand choreographer Raewyn Hill’s mixed-media response to recent natural disasters. Alice Hinde’s early solo is a storm sequence of movement, her body unfurling in deep waves as if seized by an unseen force.
Hill has created something of an art gallery on stage, with three white walls surrounding a field of artificial turf. The choreography refuses to be contained, however, and repeatedly surges against and beyond the barriers to the pull of Micka Luna’s expansive score.
There are affecting displays of anguish and strength as the young dancers effectively combine their individual styles into a cohesive whole.
Mass is framed with visual symbolism which draws attention to but does not always enlighten the narrative. In purely physical terms, however, its power is difficult to deny.
Created by Yaron Lifschitz with the Circa Ensemble
Director Yaron Lifschitz
Technical Director /Lighting Designer Jason Organ
Stage Design Yaron Lifschitz and Jason Organ
Costume Design Libby McDonnell
Featuring music composed by Kimmo Pohjonen and Samuli Kosminen (Copyright Control/ TEOSTO)
Performed by Kronos Quartet / Kimmo Pohjonen / Samuli Kosminen from the album Uniko Courtesy of Hoedown Arts, Helsinki
Additional Music and Sound composed by Purcell, Viñao, Múm and the cast
International representation (please credit as appropriate)
Paul Tanguay (Worldwide)
David Lieberman / Artists’ Representatives (USA)
Circa acknowledges the assistance of the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland. This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Ministry for the Arts’ Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund.
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