Hot, edgy, and raw, “Traces,” a 7 Fingers Production, is the smoothest, coolest circus in town. A stark contrast from the extravagant sets, costumes and theatrics of Cirque de Soleil, “Traces” is a purer, grittier, minimalistic look at circus. In this show, there are no distractions, nothing to hide behind; just a bare stage, simple props, and the performers in simple attire.
The talent is the focus here.
Creatively inventive, the show blends high risk acrobatics, dance, comedy, music, song, spoken word, illustration and interactive video projection. “Traces” is a 90-minute celebration of seven individuals, the bond they share and their talents. The title refers to these seven individuals awaiting an unknown catastrophe outside their make-shift shelter, who decide to make their last moments count by living life to the fullest and leaving traces of themselves behind.
As the show begins, a microphone quickly spins down from above as we meet each performer, one by one. Each takes a moment to introduce themselves. Unlike other shows, we get to know these performers. They allow us a glimpse into their world. They speak to us throughout, revealing personal details about themselves such as their name, age, height, and weight. They playfully describe themselves using three adjectives, like Florian who is a romantic, Mathieu who is impatient and Valerie, who is flirtatious. They establish a connection to the audience, a kind of camaraderie, which is evident each time the audience cheers them on. The audience wants them to nail every acrobatic stunt they do, but if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. It is a live show and mistakes are bound to happen especially when you are doing high risk acrobatics.
Mason Ames, Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau, Mathieu Cloutier, Bradley Henderson, Philippe Normand-Jenny, Xia Zhengqi and Florian Zumkehr are seven people with seven unique stories to tell. They each stand out as individuals yet come together beautifully as a whole.
Valerie and Mason do a contemporary dance that incorporates acrobatics. They are filled with such emotion and sensuality as they dance, it is as if they had danced together their whole lives. Later in the show, Valerie hangs from an aerial fabric above her in which she twists, spins by her neck and climbs up and down, wrapping sections around her body striking various acrobatic poses. Beautifully done, she adds a real feminine quality to the show.
Florian delivers an unbelievable performance of hand balancing on a chair in ways you never thought possible. He completely blows your mind. The performance is executed to perfection, and as if he had any energy left, he is prodded by the others to play his guitar and sings us a love song.
Xia performs diabolo, a juggling prop that looks like an hourglass and can be rolled around on a string attached with two sticks you hold in each hand. He begins with one, then two, whirling, spinning and tossing them into the air at great speed.
Bradley works the single wheel, a large metal hoop where he shifts his weight around so he can keep spinning inside it, sort of like a quarter. He masters this with great control and skill. He creates these incredible spinning patterns that put you in an almost hypnotic state.
Mathieu spins around at great speed on his rollerblades holding onto Valerie posed in his hands as if he were an ice skater spinning on ice. He closes with a daring jump over the others.
Phillipe does an incredible job on teeterboard, which resembles a playground seesaw. As Mathieu and Mason jump on one side of the teeterboard, Phillipe, who is on the other side, is catapulted into the air where he does various aerial somersaults landing on what looks like a huge mattress. He reaches such heights, you worry he will crash into the lights above.
Though there is much action, there are quieter moments in the show where Phillipe or Mathieu play the piano, Florian sings us a ballad, or Mason quietly takes the mic and raps about time…”The time is now, time after time, time travel, time heals all wounds, passing time, killing time, time is on my side…yes it is, out of time, time is up…” It’s cool and hip and it’s a nice break for the performers to catch their breath and rest before the next acrobatic stunt.
As a whole, the group delivers some memorable moments such as their skill on the poles. Two poles are situated a few feet apart, as the group takes turns jumping from one to the other, many of them doing sideways handstands in between. They slide down the poles face first, abruptly stopping inches away from the floor. It is definitely a jaw dropping moment.
They later move on to multi hoops. They start by using one large hoop, and one very small hoop underneath. Amazingly, they fly through them one by one, doing flips, and various somersaults. Soon, one more hoop is added, then another, until there are four. While attempting the highest hoop, Florian knocks it down as he flies through it, but like a true showman, he attempts it two more times to perfect it, which the audience absolutely loves.
“Traces” is an adrenaline packed show that leaves you feeling completely exhilarated and wanting more. The seven performers, outrageously talented, bring sexy to the circus. Traces is a fresh and unique look at circus. The show appeals to all ages, especially those who like to get vocally involved. Children shouting out comments get a laugh from everyone, even the performers.
Photo by Michael Meseke