Audience flips for high-flying Australian ensemble

The acrobatic adroitness of Circa, now at Jacob's Pillow, ventures well beyond the confines of dance
Circa performs through Sunday at Jacob's Pillow. (Darcy Grant)
Circa performs through Sunday at Jacob's Pillow. (Darcy Grant)

BECKET, Mass. — Circus arts have also held a place in contemporary dance. But the acrobatic adroitness of Circa ventures well beyond the confines of dance, traveling into a territory that keeps its audience on edge for the duration.

This Australian ensemble of seven is astounding at Jacob’s Pillow this week with its program “S.” The evening-length work, created by director Yaron Lifschitz, is a combination of meditative balancing acts and aggressively brisk gymnastic feats that inspired collective gasps of disbelief.

Even before the show started, one could see that Circa would be different. The curtain was open, revealing a diamond-shaped, raised and padded floor. A circle of light hovered in its center, waiting for the action to begin.

As the lights went down and up again, artist Freyja Edney lay with a single light bulb poised overhead. To the sound of heavy breathing, she raised her chest, supporting her body with her head and heels. She rose in a backbend and flipped out of her calm at the arrival of other dancers/gymnasts who then proceeded to stretch what we believed to be physically possible.


WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.

WHEN: 8 tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $65, $59, $49 and $39

MORE INFO: 413-243-0745 or Please call 491-2466 if you have questions.

In a non-stop suite of stunts, the artists hurled each other about and then caught the flying form (often the slender Alice Muntz) just before he or she hit the ground.

Standing in a line, one traversed the stage by walking on the shoulders, hands or heads of the others. Artists swung Muntz like a jump rope, by holding her hands and feet, as others leaped over her.

The muscular Lewis West performed some of the most amazing athletic exploits.

From atop someone’s shoulders or standing still, he launched into off-kilter flips that were a combination of martial arts kicks and gymnastic. He also could fling him self through the air by pushing off of his shoulders.

Robbie Curtis, Jared Dewey and Todd Kilby were often the strong men, holding or hoisting others on their shoulders, backs or heads. The strength and balance, especially as they steadied another person who was standing on their heads, were amazing.

This wasn’t just a man’s job, however. Muntz, Edney and Phoebe Armstrong carried the men, while walking, on their shoulders too.

Actually, there was so much too see, with bodies constantly flying through the air, it was difficult to take it all in.

Yet it wasn’t all hyper-activity. The ensemble, which must have been exhausted by the first hour into the show, slowed it down. Edney hypnotized with hula hoops that she kept simultaneously rotating on her neck, hands, chest, torso and one foot (she needed the other to stand). Her mastery of these swirling circles was beautifully calming.

The cast finished by balancing glass bowls of water on their heads, hands and foreheads as they once again propelled themselves through the air. The water reminded the audience of Circa’s fascinating fluidity in the face of its frightening pyrotechnics.

Categories: Entertainment

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