Schenectady is not known as a summer destination, but Proctors aims to change that with Cirque Eloize, the Montreal-based band of circus artists who will perform at the theater every summer for the next five years.
While its opening night Wednesday drew just a small crowd, that will likely change as this family-friendly ensemble delighted with its first Schenectady show, “Cirkopolis.”
A creation of company director Jeannot Painchaud and choreographer Dave St. Pierre, the work portrayed a gray industrial landscape in which its inhabitants, led by a lowly office worker played by Ashley Carr, sought color and excitement. They did through a fanciful foray into a world where the performers shed their drab, ashen wear for brief moments of exhilaration, which they heaped up generously to the audience.
The show was not much different from other circus spectacles — there were the acrobatic feats, juggling, contortions, aerial dancing on poles and trapezes and the swirl of the cyr wheels. What was unique was Painchaud and St. Pierre’s ability to tie these acts into a cohesive package, into a weird world where men flipped through the air and women rolled and dangled upside down from ropes.
Moreover, it was all bound by a video panorama of wheels and gears that continually churned in the background. Designed by Robert Massicotte, this virtual backdrop kept the dim, dank city, and the show’s energy, in a constant boil.
“Cirkopolis” began with a hunched Carr stamping and shuffling a large pile of papers that perpetually grew as other toilers added to the load. Wearing trench coats and fedoras, this line of the downtrodden broke off, whirled his desk around for an opening number that demonstrated this was a solid group of acrobats. Not only did they flip over Carr’s workstation, they also leapt onto each other’s shoulders, doing handstands on standing members hands and heads.
The dozen careened until they made way for a woman in a red dress, Angelica Bongiovonni, who mesmerized in a large hoop in which she rolled about from the inside. Her fluid mastery of the cyr wheel was impressive.
So too were the men, Frederic Lemieux-Cormier especially, in the rotating German wheel. As it trundled across the stage, the men flew in and out until the wheel’s gyration vibrated with astonishing intensity — as if the men themselves transferred their power to the object.
Not all was perfection, however. Reuben Hosler, the lead juggler, had trouble keeping his team in sync. A lot of pins bounced to the floor. He also lost control at the very end with his diabolos — the spinning spools manipulated by a string.
Still, all of the performers had solid cores. Ugo Laffolay amazed with his strength holding himself parallel to the floor from a hanging strap. Equally stunning was Maude Arsenault and Mikael Bruyere-L’Abbe, who walked up and slid down the Chinese poles.
Ultimately, the bleak world blazed with color, something Cirque Eloize hopes to do for Schenectady, summer after summer.
“Cirkopolis” will run through Saturday, Aug. 24.