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Circus and Movement at ArtsEmerson

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ArtsEmerson is proud to bring a variety of shows to our stages–in the past nine seasons, we have seen dance shows like Step Afrika’s The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, multimedia performances like Cold Blood and Ada/Ava, music theater like Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower and The Magic Flute, and of course, circus acts like The 7 Fingers’ Reversible. Next week, ArtsEmerson will welcome renowned interdisciplinary artist Raphaëlle Boitel to the Cutler Majestic Theatre, where she will perform When Angels Fall (FEB 20-24), a show that incorporates acrobatics, dance and intricate technical design. In preparation for this exciting performance, we decided to take a look back at ArtsEmerson’s history with movement based performances.

1. PSY – The 7 Fingers

During ArtsEmerson’s inaugural season (2010-2011), Boston audiences were wowed with this whimsical performances from The 7 Fingers, a Montreal-based circus troupe. PSY incorporated a number of circus and acrobatic techniques, with the performers using everything from Chinese poles to German wheels as well as trapeze swings, aerial ropes, and juggling balls. This performance was so well received that it was brought for two weeks during the summer of 2011 to open ArtsEmerson’s second season.  

2. Circa – Circa Circus

In addition to PSY’s return, ArtsEmerson’s 2011-2012 season was host to another circus and acrobatics show called Circa, which traveled to the Paramount Center all the way from Brisbane, Australia. This circus troupe relied exclusively on their own bodies and mesmerizing skills to conjure up an acrobatics and contortionist performance, complete with a “touch of Vaudeville” (Boston Globe). Circa was an particularly unique show due to the fact that troupe did not use any elaborate sets or conventional circus contraptions, however, Circa Circus still executed a fantastic, high-energy acrobatics show.

3. Tales from Ovid – Whistler in the Dark

This performance incorporated gravity-defying aerial silk acrobatics as part of their adaption of Ted Hughes’s poetry collection, Tales from Ovid, which is a retelling of Metamorphoses. Although Tales from Ovid was only featured at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre for ten days, the performance’s combination of movement and poetry engaged audiences from all over Massachusetts, many of who participated in a special post-show demonstration of aerial silks, which was lead by aerial silks instructor and Whistler consultant Jill Maio.

4. Sequence 8 –  The 7 Fingers

The creators of PSY returned to ArtsEmerson during the 2012-2013 season with their new circus act, Sequence 8, a performance created to celebrate the troupe’s 10th anniversary. This show took The 7 Fingers’ masterful circus skills to the next level with even more impressive trapeze stunts and extraordinary acrobatics. Similar to Tales from Ovid, audiences of Sequence 8 were given the special opportunity to learn the amazing acrobatics from the show at a workshop hosted by Simply Circus Studios in Newton, MA.  

5. Lebensraum (Habitat) – Jakop Ahlbom

Dutch performer Jakop Ahlbom combined theatre, mime, dance, music and the world of illusion to create this hilarious slapstick performance inspired by silent film stars like Buster Keaton. Lebensraum was backed with a live score by Alamo Race Track, making the performance all the more engaging. de Volkskrant newspaper noted that “with mime, acrobatics, and magic, Ahlbom tricks the audience with mind blowing stunts both on and off stage.”

6. Traces – The 7 Fingers

The 7 Fingers returned to ArtsEmerson after traveling to more than 25 countries with their production of Traces, a performance choreographed by Gypsy Snider, the Circus Creator for the Tony Award-winning revival of Pippin. This Time magazine Top Ten favorite fused storytelling, music and, of course, acrobatics into a magical show that was even featured on America’s Got Talent.

7. The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century) – Double Edge Theatre

The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century), from Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, Massachusetts, blended circus, puppetry, dance and projections to create an jaw-dropping production inspired by visual artist Marc Chagall. This theatrical and acrobatic collage took the audience along a 100-year journey, depicting historical events from the moon landing to the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

8. Cuisine & Confessions – The 7 Fingers

During the summer of 2016, The 7 Fingers celebrated the U.S. premiere of their latest work, Cuisine & Confessions at ArtsEmerson. Like previous 7 Finger performances, this production showcased the innovative troupe’s trademark acrobatic and choreographic mastery, but this time, added sound, smell, touch, and taste to create this multi-sensory marvel.

9. Machine de Cirque

This circus troupe from Quebec City delighted Boston audiences during ArtsEmerson’s 2016-2017 season. This company manipulated various props such as a teeterboard, juggling clubs, drum kits, and even bath towels to create a comical, nostalgic, and wildly entertaining performance. The New Haven Independent called Machine de Cirque “brilliant and boundary-shattering” and even called for audiences to “forget about Cirque du Soleil!”

10. Reversible – The 7 Fingers
Opening ArtsEmerson’s eighth season, The 7 Fingers returned to Boston with Reversible, a performance that was a mix of theatre, illusion, dance, music and acrobatics. This phenomenal show, directed by Gypsy Snider, highlighted the best of contemporary circus to tell the story of performers traveling through time and space to honor their elders.

Can’t get enough of ArtsEmerson’s exciting circus performances? Be sure not to miss When Angels Fall at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, FEB 20-24, 2019.

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