Circa, presented by the PuSh Festival, throws down pedal to the metal performance

Judging by the gasps, laughs, exclamations and finally, an immediate standing ovation, generated by the sold out crowd last Saturday at the Freddie Wood Theatre at UBC, you should kick yourself for not getting tickets to Circa.

Part of the PuSh Festival, which carries on with more fabulous programming till February 6, Circa, conceived, designed and directed by Yaron Lifschitz, combined various circus skills with contemporary dance and  clowning to create a non verbal pot pourri of edgy acts that flowed together seamlessly. Content pulled from various shows comprised the 80 minute show so no obvious theme shone except the remarkable capabilities of the human body and the ingenuity of their minds.

The Brisbane, Australia troupe included Freyja Edney, the remarkably strong woman who not only did contortions but balanced a not exactly small man standing on her head; Emma McGovern, who performed my personal favourite act of the night; strong man Scott Grove; Jessie Scott, who seemed more comfortable on his head than on his feet; and hunky uber-athlete Lewis West. The intimacy of the Freddie Wood created a special bond in that we could see the sweat, muscles and tats up close.

Having travelled to 18 countries across five continents, their acts are well rehearsed without being slick. Good thing as a half centimeter off on some of these tricks and paramedics would be called. It’s that pedal to the metal risk taking that makes Circa so thrilling.

Starting with the performers slamming themselves down on the ground on body parts that typically don’t like being slammed, the two women showed bare legs and upper bodies while the men were shirtless. Notable because their muscle definition reminded those of us with anatomical backgrounds or those of us who went to see Bodyworks at the Science Centre, how magnificent the human body really is. What  those bodies were capable of was truly inspiring.

Creating Pilobolus-like human structures, using bodies as skipping ropes and then letting go, or contorting yourself around while balancing on body parts that aren’t made to hold people were just some of the fast paced physical ideas that made up the group pieces.

The solos would often take an idea and use the circus skills to create a character. Scott’s play with his small hoop was particularily charming as he fit his lanky frame through a tiny hoop and the audience enjoyed Grove’s movement from spotlight to spotlight, back flipping and then splatting.

Edney’s hooping skills were remarkable: flinging 8 hoops around, ducking her head while circling and doing it all with ease.

McGovern’s aerial rope act or corde lisse was exceptional. The functional movements that propel the aerialist up the rope and work the knots that keep them there were so clean and graceful that they were part of the choreography. So beautiful and controlled, I lost myself in the flowing shapes and the gorgeous exit that seemed almost magical.

One of the last acts suggested a metaphor for male/female relationships that gave the work more depth. Donning stiletto shiny red heels, McGovern walked over West, carefully placed the ball of her foot on large muscle groups letting the sharp point of the stiletto make contact with his skin. Turning him over for more abuse, it was agonizing and fascinating.

Standing  there with the rest of the audience clapping at the end, all I was thinking was, “I wonder if they travel with a massage therapist.” I sure hope so.

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