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Posted on Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

A different kind of circus comes to town; Circa will perform second Summer Festival show Saturday

By Jennifer Eberbach

Circus evolves. The seven performers of Circa, an Australian Cirque Nouveau company, wowed the Power Center audience Friday night with spectacular feats of human strength, balance, endurance, and gracefulness. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival main stage event helped kick off its last weekend with a standing ovation.

The company mixes traditional circus acts such as mind-bending acrobatics, contortions, and other spectacles with beautifully executed contemporary dance and movement. The smooth flow between diverse acts (from tumbling or balancing acts to a woman walking all over a man with her red high heels) proves that circus can evolve in really interesting ways.

Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz and company have crafted a new kind of show that feels a little bit like watching Cirque du’Soleil but without any of the elaborate costumes and staging. The performers wore simple dance outfits and the use of solid colored lighting and shadows highlighted their crazy-fit bodies and seemingly superhuman physical abilities.

Audience member Jay Lubow, a University of Michigan grad student from Los Angeles, agreed that it reminded him a little of a Cirque du’Soleil show, but its stripped-down look made it easier to keep your full attention on the difficulty of the movements.

“You can see how much effort they put into it and how hard they try. I felt like it was more about the movement and less about the show than Cirque du’Soleil. This one was like, here are our bodies and this is what we can do with them. And what they could do with them was really impressive,” Lubow said in the lobby after the show.

His favorite act in Friday’s show was done on parallel straps hanging from the ceiling. “The way he would wrap himself up and then fall to the ground was really great. It was artistic and at the same time a great feat of athleticism to be able to do that consistently for so long,” Lubow said.

Local yoga teacher Jody Tull de Salis found the show “outrageous, inspiring,” she said. “I loved their use of the breath. Breath was a huge component in the way that they moved. They must also have tremendous trust in each other” to let each other climb literally atop one another, swing each other around, and balance upon each other, she thought after the show.

Her husband Rupert, a consultant for engineers, loved “the amazing artistry of those performers,” he said. “Every little movement was so graceful. That along with the gymnastics was amazing.”

When asked about their favorite part of the show the couple listed a few. “I thought that the woman with the shaved head was captivating. She was completely deadpan, like she was completely in a trance when she was doing things. She kept your attention incredibly well. She almost moved between those people like one was dead and one was alive. It was just incredible,” Rupert said.

Jody’s favorite was a hula hoop act. At the climax of the piece, she had four going at once up and down her body when another company member added more to the already impressive pile.

Aside from the series of acts, stunts, and dance pieces that constitute the show, the music was enchanting as well. A wonderfully reimagined version of Radiohead song “Paranoid Android,” which contains the lyrics “From a great height,” played while a girl did acrobatics high on a rope. It was a perfect choice.

Circa is a great event for children who can stay up just a little late on a Saturday night. One of the stars of Friday’s show ended up being a young kid in the audience whose infectious laughter got everyone laughing during a comical performance in which a performer conducted the audience in a symphony of finger snapping.

There is a little something for everybody at this show, assuming you like gymnastics, acrobats, dance, circuses, or just seeing people do things that very few of us can even imagine performing.

Circa performs again tonight at the Power Center. For tickets, see the Summer Festival website.



Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

It was a great show. Don't let the first 5-10 minutes dissuade you, though, and leave early. That opening segment made me think I was in store for a bleak interpretive post-modern dance recital from old East Germany. The show literally gets better and better until the end and you can bring the kids if they can stay up late.


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Hahaha - it was interesting and I knew they were trying to "wake" us up, but I wasn't wearing enough black clothes to fully appreciate it (I kept thinking of "Sprockets" from those old Saturday Night Live sketches but with less clothes and fitter dancers than Mike Myers). More importantly, though, I had the kids with me and was worried it was going to be a disaster. You were right on the money about the kid with the infectious laugh. The pure glee from the child really livened the mood. I'm not sure what to call the performers (artists? gymnasts? comedians? actors?) but they did a wonderful job.

Jennifer Eberbach

Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

I totally agree. This is a great point. Although, for a "bleak interpretive post-modern dance," the opening number was still pretty good.