From the start, one could sense that “Traces” was not your average song and dance show.
The Proctors stage was framed by a ragged tent; and the familiar announcement at the beginning of the show urged patrons to leave their cell phone on, feel free to take flash photos and use the facilities at anytime during the performance, because “you’ll never know what you missed.”
After inspiring a wave of chuckles, 7 Fingers, a circus arts ensemble from Montreal, sprinted onto the stage in one of the most heart-stopping entrances ever seen. Flipping and flying over each other, and tossing and catching the only female member of the group, the seven artists demonstrated their meddle in a way that made those in the seats fight to catch their breath.
Yes, “Traces” was not your average creation. It was daring, gravity-defying and beautiful, as everything these artists did — from swinging over the audience on ropes to diving through 10-foot-high hoops — they did with a grace and effortlessness that was astonishing.
In addition, the artists, performing acrobatics in a series of sketches, proved they were a tight-knit team. For every dangerous stunt, and there were plenty, the others were poised to catch, support or move a mat. Though one couldn’t help but feel slightly on edge when seeing a man launched 12 feet in the air, one also felt that this crew was so practiced and precise that all would be well. And it was.
But mainly, “Traces” was fun, as the artists did not remain anonymous mutes, as is often the case. They introduced themselves — like participants in a competitive TV show — so that audiences really did feel some connection, though tenuous, to each amazing performer.
Moving to music by such artists as Radiohead, VAST and Blackalicious, the 90-minute, intermission-free show moved from one jaw-dropper to the next. After the exhausting opening, Philippe Normand-Jenny and Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau engaged in a powerful duet in which Benoit-Charbonneau was balanced, upside down, high over the head of Normand-Jenny. He flung and twisted her across his shoulders and between his legs. And just when you thought he was going to drop her, she would glide skyward and do a handstand on his extended arms.
LJ Marles thrilled the audience with his ride on the ropes, in which he twisted his arms and then shot straight down, like a whirling dervish.
Lucas Boutin, along with the rest of the team, climbed and then jumped between poles — often with a backflip.
Bradley Henderson commanded a hoop, riding its wobble inside like DaVinci’s “Vitruvian Man.” However, Henderson, was not always upright.
Throughout, the artists showed amazing strength in feats that outdid what came before. Better yet, they didn’t goad applause like old-fashioned circus performers. They would simply shrug and move on to the next showstopper.
In the finale, the performers stacked hoops impossibly high. Still, the artists managed to soar through them — not just in dives, but also in seated positions and leaps.
Needless to say, “Traces” was a hit.