Monday, January 14, 2008

Hitting the sawdust

Caught an evening of "new circus" Friday night at the French Alliance. The terms refers to a hybrid of circus, dance, theater and performance art (completely devoid of animals) that's quite popular in France but not really practiced here, where circus means either Ringling Brothers or Cirque du Soleil. The most famous practitioner may be James Thiérrée, who gets gigs at BAM, but otherwise we don't see much new circus in New York, save for the occasional short run at the New Victory Theater on 42nd St.

The French Alliance program introduced four companies, each performing a 20-minute excerpt from its regular evening-length show. The overall tone was elliptical and arty, with varying degrees of success. My favorite was Compagnie XY, whose series of balancing acts used suitcases of various sizes as props; the program explained that "the production examines the outward physical mobility of travel and the interior stagnate life of each traveler," but I mostly saw, well, a balancing act, albeit one with very nice dry humor. A shoe-in for the New Vic.

My other fave was Compagnie Bal's "Éloge du poil" (pictured), in which Jeanne Mordoj, sporting a fake beard, starts off with a contortionist bit, performs ventriloquism with two animal skulls and slides an egg yolk around her neck and along her arms. It's fairly opaque and vaguely creepy, and quite memorable. This one could do well at PS 122.

Jean-Baptiste André used a video camera to add another visual element to his balancing routine. It would have impressed me more if Compagnie 111 hadn't done something very similar in its amazing Plan B at the New Vic a few years ago. Still, André's bit elicited delighted oooh's and aaah's from the audience.

As for Compagnie Chant de Balles, there's only so much juggling I can take, even backed by a live lute player. Especially backed by a live lute player.

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