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Posted on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 10:37 a.m.

Contemporary circus from Montreal likely to leave Summer Festival goers in awe

By Jennifer Eberbach


Les 7 doigts de la main

At the intersection of extraordinary circus feats and graceful contemporary dance, cirque nouveau acts captivate Ann Arbor audiences.

From Montreal, a Mecca of contemporary circus acts, Les 7 doigts de la main return to the Ann Arbor Summer Festival's main stage to perform their newest spectacle. A troupe of 8 will perform acrobatics, balancing acts, juggling, trapeze, contemporary dance, and various other mind-bending feats, at the Power Center, on June 22 and 23., in their show "Sequence 8."

Shana Carroll, "Sequence 8" co-director and a company founder—one of the "7 fingers on the hand"—promised Ann Arbor a "high-level" show. She created the show with her husband Sebastien Soldevila, another of the 7 founding fingers.


Les 7 Doigts de la main

  • Who: Montreal troupe.
  • What: Contemporary circus.
  • Where: Power Center, 121 Fletcher St.
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 22; 5 p.m. Sunday, June 23.
  • How much: $25-$45 (kids, $10). Tickets available online or by phone at 734-764-2538.
"There is an extremely high-level of acrobatics in this show, more so than any of our others. In my opinion, I would say this is our highest-level show. There was so much choreographic energy given to it," Carroll says.

"Sequence 8" includes some circus skills never featured before by the company. Two men holding a Russian bar - like a balance beam - will throw a woman up in the air as she moves across it. They also added Korean plank to their repertoire.

Eric Bates rediscovers the almost-lost art of cigar box juggling. "He is arguably the best cigar box juggler in the world," Carroll says.

Although some Les 7 doigts de la main productions tell a story, with a cohesive plot and setting, "Sequence 8" is different.

"It is the least story-oriented of our shows," Carroll explains.

Instead, individual routines are held together by common themes. "It's more like variations on a theme, a more abstract approach," she explains. The setting is described as a "vertical canvas" rather than a time and place.

"The two overall themes are relationships between people and the concept of 'the other,'" Carroll explains. "I wanted to do an emotional show, something that was very tactile and felt on a more visceral level, less literal than plots and stories."

"I was interested in thinking about the artists in the show, who are in their 20s, and realize the intense relationships that happen when you're that age. They are close and physical with each other, and tender. When you are so close to your friends at that age, you don't feel the boundaries anymore," she says.

The personalities of the cast members and relationships between them inspired a lot of the show. "In rehearsal, they put a lot of their own personalities into it," Carroll says.

Moments in the show also explore the idea of 'the other,' how we relate or fail to relate to other people. Carroll said her husband was horrified by a news report from China about a man who had run over a girl. "How have we gotten to a point in society where others can mean so little? Seb wanted to make a show about the consciousness we have that affects each others' lives and how we are all interconnected. He had a more social or political angle," she says.

"We had different paths to the same idea," Carroll says of her and her husband's creative process.

An example of a variation on the theme of human relationships is an acrobatic act inspired by the idea of magnetic attraction. "Two guys joined at the wrist propel someone else. It is a physical exploration - their hands are magnetic. Magnets are also a very literal way of demonstrating attraction," she explains.

The audience also plays a role in the show, an interesting twist on the concept of 'the other.' At one point in the show, the audience is quizzed about symbolism to see what they understand.

"Sequence 8" is also a self-aware show. It knows it's a show and does not pretend to be anything else. For example, "When they are putting electrical tape around the room there is commentary about what is happening. One guy is like, it's meant to represent relationships. Then they joke about it like it's all intellectual B.S. It's double-edged. On the one hand we make fun of it. On the other hand they are telling true things about the number that are actually sincere," Carroll says.

Inspired by contemporary dance and European-style contemporary circus, Les 7 doigts de la Main mix the esoteric and the comic, the explosive power of physical feats and subtler, more tender moments.

"I'm incredibly influenced by the more esoteric shows, but I think we bring a very contemporary approach to circus that is still something people relate too," Carroll says, looking forward to the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.


Ghost of Tom Joad

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 5:58 p.m.

If people are interested in this type of entertainment, there is a local group similar to this that is quite good. They are called "Dakini Circus" and this is their facebook page: