Saturday, October 04, 2014

ArtsEmerson Presents "Traces" by Les 7 Doigts de la Main - Urban Circus on a Human Scale

I first became aware of Les 7 Doigts de la Main when one of the Founders, Gypsy Snider, partnered with Diane Paulus to create the circus elements that are now an integral part of "Pippin," the Tony Award winning Broadway musical.  Part of the vision of Gypsy and her six co-founders of Les 7 Doigt de la Main was to present urban circus on a human scale.  The show currently being presented by ArtsEmerson at the Cutler Majestic Theater is "Traces."

I have always been a huge fan of circus, especially the acrobats.  Cirque de Soleil is intriguing to me, and "Traces" bears some resemblance to a Cirque de Soleil show - with one major difference.  In "Traces" the 7 performers speak to the audience about themselves.  They, in effect, set out to leave "traces" of themselves with the audience as they perform their acrobatic feats.  That very intentional human element added a great deal to my enjoyment of this show.

"Traces" has a very loose narrative arc.  These seven individuals are contained in a warehouse-type space, and some great catastrophe has befallen the earth, so that this may be their last day on Earth.  What traces of themselves do they hope to leave behind? Using a deus ex machina microphone that descends from the heavens, each of the seven performers tells us who they are, where they are from, and something of their vital statistics. Performing "Traces" in Boston are Lucas Boutin, Hou Kai, LJ Marles, Diego Rodarte-Amor, Fletcher Sanchez, Renaldo Williams and Naomie Zimmerman-Pichon.  Each of these performers brings several specific areas of technical expertise to the troupe.  Together, they bring a humanity, a vulnerability and an accessibility that allowed them - individually and collectively - to win the hearts of the audience.  These are not mere fungible and replaceable cogs in a vast acrobatic machine.  They are individuated human beings we come to care about.  We sit on the edge of ours seats eager to cheer for the success of each astonishing feat of beauty, grace, strength and athleticism that they offer to us.  They managed to find a way to etch traces of themselves into our hearts.

Presented by
Les 7 Doigts de la Main

Adding to the customary acrobatic props of mats, hoops, Chinese poles, aerial rigging, and juggling implements, this troupe employed a few more common objects - a piano that appeared to have been assembled from scrap wood, an overstuffed easy chair, skateboards, desk chairs.  Elements of jazz, modern dance, ballet, and salsa punctuated the movements of the acrobats, all underscored with a driving beat of atmospheric music that kept the show hopping at a fast pace.  Directed by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, the show features acrobatic coach Sebastien Soldevila, Sound by Sebastien Marion, Lights by Nol VanGenuchten, Costumes by Manon Desmarais and Rigging by Alexandre Balcer.

During the Post Show Discussion that followed Friday's performance, Lucas Boutin and Naomie Zimmerman-Pichon spent time answering questions from the audience.  The session was billed as "Risking Human Connection."  That title highlights this show's most wonderful differentiating element: the human touch.  These performers were not merely offering up their technical skills, they were offering themselves.  When asked what was the most terrifying part of the show - given the death-defying nature of some of the acts - Naomie replied that it was taking the microphone and speaking.  Her answer was humorous and poignant.  Human contact is a high risk activity, but one worth taking.  As the audience rose as one in appreciation of what we had just experienced, we were showig our gratitude that these 7 individuals had taken that risk and had thereby enriched us all.

This show is part of ArtsEmerson's commitment to bring the world to Boston stages, and kicks off the 2014-2015 season.  The show runs for one more week through October 12.  Don't miss it!



ArtsEmerson Website

No comments: