Cirque Zuma Zuma played its African beat with enthusiasm Friday night at Proctors, but the ensemble of dancers, acrobats, jugglers and tumblers didn’t always have the production values, and sometimes skill, to match their frothy zeal to entertain.
This high-energy show, an East African version of the popular human circus spectacles from Canada, China and France, was sloppy — plagued by quite a number of faltering feet, costume difficulties, awkward transitions and musical miscues. While no one can claim Cirque Zuma Zuma to be polished, the dozen performers did amuse with a slew of comic antics driven by quite a bit of talent. And when they slipped up, they smiled, unapologetically, and moved on with hopes of getting it right the next time.
Certainly, the troupe, directed by Konde Kalama, needed better production values. For example, costumes did not fit, forcing performers to tug and pull at their leggings to perform their often dangerous acts. A buttock-shaking dancer lost her beaded belt, and headdresses flew across the stage.
Most distressing was the music, which was out of sync with the action on stage. This was extremely annoying, as it happened with every act all night.
A good director, composer and choreographers would do wonders for Cirque Zuma Zuma, as the talent was there.
The dancers and drummers — probably the only purely African part of the program — were terrific. Hard-driving and fast, these muscular performers were in complete accordance. The drummers bore down, creating a multi-rhythmic rush as the dancers jumped straight in the air, flaying arms and legs, landing only to repeat their fireworks.
Some of the tumblers and acrobats were equally jaw-dropping. One man repeatedly rose into handstands on a shaky tower of chairs. Needless to say, it was a nail-biter to watch. Here again, better chairs would have made this act safer and less nerve-wracking for the audience to see.
Most of the men, who performed acrobatic feats, were excellent — popping off back flips and dives with ease. In a jump-rope number, they bounced above the rope on their bottoms or in one-handed handstands. They also flew through hoops and flattened out for the limbo bar, which was on fire.
But one large man, there for his strength in the human pyramid, remained aground. Thus, his appearance with his agile cohorts made many of their doings look clumsy. He did redeem himself. as he and three others scaled a pole, again demonstrating their strength as they posed upside down and sideways in mid-air. But mostly, he looked out of place.
The women were mostly tremendous. The hula hoop dancer did more with her little toe than anyone could imagine. She could ride a hoop from the floor to her neck — undulating it up and down her body. For her finale, she caught airborne hoops with her head, while keeping dozens riding around her torso.
Finally, the contortionists were unbelievable, as they twisted themselves in knots while balancing upside down on each other. Again though, their choreography looked under-rehearsed, thus unsteady.
Cirque Zuma Zuma has potential, but does it have the will to invest in bettering its product? If Kalama was wise, he would. Otherwise, Cirque Zuma Zuma will be short-lived.