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Twisting Humanity: A Look at Les 7 doigts de la main

Upcoming at ArtsEmerson: Sequence 8

Did you ever think you’d emotionally identify with an acrobat on stage twisting into a physically impossible position or doing a series of flips in the air that would nauseate a normal human being? No? Yeah, me neither. But the Montreal-based circus troupe Les 7 doigts de la main (or the 7 fingers of the hand) took all of my preconceptions about acrobatics as an art form and completely transformed them once I encountered their heartfelt, passionate work.

Les 7 doigts was founded in 2002 by seven young directors who came together to create a collective “hand,” working towards a common goal. Their aim was clear from the start: to “bring circus to a human scale.” In an industry focused on spectacle, the founders were looking to create something with heart and purpose.  Together, these seven original artists have worked to direct, choreograph, write and coach the eight productions which have gained them international acclaim and set them apart as a unique voice for the circus arts. The company has become such a predominant voice in acrobatics and movement that they were asked to choreograph the much buzzed-about revival of Pippin, showing this spring at Boston’s own American Repertory Theater.

In ArtsEmerson’s inaugural 2010/2011 Season, Les 7 doigts brought PSY to the expansive Cutler Majestic stage. Initially, I was hesitant of a “circus” show; over time, I was convinced by word of mouth to go see it. I am ever so thankful that I did. PSY delivered a stripped down, inherently human dramatic work expressed through movement, sound and, yes, acrobatics.  Mixed in with the (literally) jaw-dropping stunts and contortions was a group of people trying to uncover the central question of the theatre: what does it mean to be human?

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