Day 2: Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival

What another wonderful day at the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival! We saw three shows and they were amazing!

The day started with Acrobatic Conundrum’s the Way Out, a group from Seattle, Washington directed by Terry Crane. The basic premise of the piece was that eight strangers were trapped in a room with scarce resources and no explanation of their imprisonment. It reminded me of a young adult book called The House of Stairs by William Sleater about kids imprisoned in a room. They have to figure out the rules and actions so they can get food, water and other items from their unknown captors.This had the same feel; one performer had to figure out how she could drink water. Moreover, it felt like a survival situation where everyone has to show their survival skills to get acceptance from the group. In this case, instead of survival skills, like building a fire or cooking, the skills are circus.

It was a fascinating show. It started with half of the characters arrived in body bags, which is fairly startling statement for any piece.  I particularly loved the dual Cyr wheel act because there is something extraordinary about two people spinning in these metal hoops simultaneously on stage.  One girl did a lovely silks act blindfolded, which was incredibly impressive, and then ended it with a five flip drop which none of us had seen before. (She did take off the blindfold first, so you knew it was going to be awesome). There was an improvised device piece involving a bathtub which I thought was magical. The performer did incredible poses around the shower bar and tub that turned on about half way through the piece. What a exquisite piece!

My favorite piece though was the endless rope or double pulley act. There were two pulleys overhead with a long red rope through them. I’d never seen anything like it. The performers would pull down on one side and a performer on the other side would launch up into the air, do some drops. At one point, one performer jumped from one side of the rope to the other. Very impressive.

The second show of the night was Quebec based group FILP Fabrique who performed Attrape-Moi. They were incredible. I could feel my brains melting in awe during the show. The basic premise of their piece was six old friends get together for a summer and celebrate their friendship and memories together. It was wacky, energetic, and heartfelt; everything that it should be.

One of my favorite acts started with the performers looking and laughing at a book, presumably a yearbook, from their past. Then one performer began this incredible straps act that managed to convey the loveliness and pain of bittersweet memories. He did incredible flips up and down the straps with his body. He even performed with the book which is impressive as it is difficult. It was brilliant.  Another wondrous piece was a dual Diabolo showdown. Diabolo is this hour glass shaped juggling prop that is spun on a wire between two sticks. This piece was a showdown between two rivals. IT was incredible fast paced as they spun the diabolos around the stage and at times juggling several of them between them. Very neat.

Another very impressive act was the group acrobatics act. One performer would stand, held up by four other performers, and he would flip in the air and land standing. At one point, he even jumps from the one story stage onto a flexible stick and then continues his incredible jumps. Incredible!

The piéce de résistance was the giant trampoline. The amount of energy and artistry was awe-inspiring. Performers would jump from the top of the scenery (between 1-2 stories) onto the trampoline and then back up to the top of the set again, standing. They made it look so effortlessly that it could have been the result of many 100s of hours of practice. Performers would jump at the same time, flying past each other left and right in the air. It felt as if the trampoline was juggling people.

They perform again today at 5:00pm. I’d highly recommend going.

The third and last show of the night was El Circo Cheapo-All Stars. It was largely a reunion show of Aloft performers from its 5 year history; many of whom would have moved across the country. It was wondrous to see them all on stage again. The performers were amazing and it was a pleasure to see them all together on stage again.

Ariele Ebacher started it all off with her graceful tight wire act. She danced and jumped across the wire. Jan Damm juggled batons while standing expertly balancing on a Rola Bola on top of a spinning platform. Two dancers from Aerial Dance Company performed a lovely tango on an apparatus called the Tippy Lyra, a new apparatus to me. The lyra would flip from performer to performer. Very neat. Then Wolfgang Bientzle impressively put on his clothing while strapped into the German Wheel.

Laura Lippert performed her elegant aerial chair act, which was lovely as always. Rachel Karabenick stylishly presented her pole act, masterfully spinning and dancing up and down the pole. Amanda Crockett performed her incredible clowning and juggling hats act, which is always a pleasure. (She’s a featured performer in Cirque de Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE). Helena Reynolds flew threw the air in her amazing lyra act. And to end the show, Elena Brocade beautifully performed on the static trapeze. The piece seemed inspired by the pinups of the 40s.

What a wonderful show! What an incredible evening. One circus left today. So sad!

But then Circo Cheapo will be back next month on February 1st!

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