The Peacock,

1st October 2016

Stuart Sweeney

Quebec has established a formidable reputation in modern circus and one of my favourite companies from this Canadian province is Cirque Éloize. From their early visits to the UK, they have staged distinctive shows combining circus skills with theatre, dance and inventive stage design.

Cirque Eloize "iD" Photo Valerie Remise

Cirque Eloize “iD”
Photo Valerie Remise

iD is no exception, combining circus with hip hop dance in an energy packed urban setting. Director Jeannot Painchaud describes that his starting point was the dance and apart from four specialist hip hoppers, the circus artists were also selected for their movement qualities alongside their stage specialities. We see builders, street gangs and couples seeking solace amidst the bustling landscape. Video of varying city scapes projected onto a complex wall with doors, landings and balconies makes a rich visual setting for the performers.

The hip hop and circus skills are often paired together, to maintain the energy levels at 10 out of 10. Nevertheless, it’s the acrobatics, hand to hand balancing, and aerial specialists who steal the show. In the first half, Diana Gonzalez from Mexico moves expertly over, through and around an aerial hoop, but more important are the beautiful shapes she creates with her circus skills. In the second half, she takes to a cyr wheel, basically a large hoop and standing inside moves it around the stage spinning with, over and outside the simple wheel that seems to take on a life of its own. Again it’s the beauty of the shapes she creates, not just the technical skill and muscle power that takes this act up a notch.

Cirque Eloize id Photo: Patrick Lazic

Cirque Eloize “iD”
Photo Patrick Lazic

One of the simplest presentations is the combination of contortionist, Nicole Winter with a hip hop dancer I couldn’t identify from the head shot free programme. The two complement each other’s skills in unison side by side, creating something greater than the sum of the parts. In the second half, Winter performs solo on a long aerial silk scarf and again, and high above the stage it’s the beauty of the shapes that makes the scene stand out.

We also see a crazy cycle jumping around the stage, juggling with enumerable balls, balancing on a stack of some dozen chairs, heroic pole work, with brooding gang conflict reappearing at regular intervals. But it’s the finale that stays in the mind with the performers jumping off the “roof” high at the back of the stage onto a trampoline and returning to the roof after spins, twists and somersaults. The combinations get more and more complex, until the artists are jumping in canon, crossing paths at high speeds but somehow managing to avoid an aerial collision. The first time I saw this act, I thought it must be done with a wire but no, it’s all free flight – a knock-out.

iD is skilful, great fun and varied enough to retain interest throughout. Well worth a visit, but please don’t try this at home.