Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cirque Éloize's "Cirkopolis" rises at Skirball

Members of Cirque Éloize
perform a banquine act in Cirkopolis
photo (c)2012 Productions Neuvart/Valérie Remise
Right before the curtain rises on Montreal's Cirque Éloize--now at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts through January 5--discordant music starts grinding and growling. Houselights flash; the curtain swirls with blobs of light, and whatever lies behind that veil could be radioactive. A startled audience gives up its first flurry of applause. And when that curtain lifts, watch out!

Cirkopolis, featuring a gifted, versatile troupe from Montreal, is what Fritz Lang (of Metropolis fame) might whip up from a big heap of contemporary circus acts, a dollop of music-theater choreography and a dash of Magritte. Instead of Lang, though, we have Cirque Éloize's Jeannot Painchaud and co-director/ choreographer Dave St-Pierre mischief-making with Robert Massicotte (sets/video), Alexis Laurence (video), Nicolas Descoteaux (lighting) and Stefan Boucher (music), just to name a few of the numerous co-conspirators responsible for this spectacle. Together, they have constructed an impressive, if also menacing, vision of urban life with views of towering, zooming architecture, a mass of mechanical gears that endlessly churn, and business men and women as soulless in their workaday existence as their yard-high stacks of paperwork. But that's not all.

Somewhere beneath this city of driving energy lies a more magical, more seductive one, no less driven. A city of expressive freedom, of romance, where men and women of cultivated power and skill display not only physical daring but also sensitivity and whimsy. In other words, a city of circus.
Cirque Éloize in the juggling pins scene of Cirkopolis
photos (c)2012 Productions Neuvart/Valérie Remise

Over the course of 80 minutes, Painchaud and St-Pierre offer no straightforward narrative but utilize "big number" stagings--like a wildy imaginative ensemble dance with juggling pins--as context and lightbox for circus acts like trapeze work, banquine, contortion and clowning. The pace is variable but mostly lively, with only Lauren Herley's scarily-good but overextended corde lisse (aerial rope act) dragging out longer than necessary. From the sheer poetry of Angelica Bongiovonni's intricate twirling with and within a life-like Cyr wheel--I believe she can fly!--to the more macho posturing of a male sextet slipping around inside the German wheel, Cirkopolis is a nearly overwhelming thrill. Make time for Cirque Éloize this season!

Performed by Maude Arseneault, Angelica Bongiovonni, Dominique Bouchard, Mikael Bruyere-L’Abbe, Ashley Carr, Samuel Charlton, Myriam Deraiche, Lauren Herley, Reuben Hosler, Ugo Laffolay, Yann LeBlanc, Frederic Lemieux-Cormier and Francois Saussus (alternating with Carr in the clown act)

Through January 5. For complete schedule details and tickets, click here.

Kimmel Center for University Life
New York University (at Washington Square)
566 LaGuardia Place, Manhattan

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