Thursday, January 13, 2011

review - Traces

CRITIC'S PICK
Traces
Les 7 Doigts de la Main/7 Fingers
The Montalban Theatre
directed & choreographed by Shana Carroll & Gypsy Snider
through February 20

Mon dieu! When they said Traces was one-of-a-kind and would knock me out of my seat, they weren't kidding! This is an acrobatic/dance-mixed, very physical performance. The troupe of 7 amazing people, not unlike the clowns, aerialists and gymnasts of Cirque du Soleil, all rolled into one, offer a jubilantly loose performance structure and set forth an innocently novel intent. Indeed, there is no malice intended, despite initial warnings that anything dangerous might happen and in spite of an ending that places the performers' safety first and foremost. There are really only good humane thoughts. Remember: they are part clown trained to make people smile and maybe, even think a bit. But happily just a little, as entertainment is the top priority. Through February 20 the Ricardo Montalban stage serves as home to this Canadian based group, ingeniously guided by not one but two directors Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider.

The show begins loosely with friendly introductions by each member of the ensemble. They give their names, places and dates of birth and then a segment or two in, each one discloses his height, weight and three adjectives of personality description ranging from romantic/cool to egotistical/easily agitated. It's an honest attempt to interact and establish amicable relations with the audience, which purely distinguishes these clowns from other Circus related experiences. The 7 amiable members of the troupe include 6 males: Philippe Normand-Jenny whose specialty is the teeter board, Florian Zumkehr, the handstand man, Brandley Henderson, hoopster, Xia Zhengqi, juggler of sorts, Mason Ames and Mathieu Cloutier. There is one female: petite Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau who completely equals the men in dexterity and grace. Within a short space of time, we grow to love them all.
The unusual factor here is that these guys not only have awesome physical attributes but expert musical talent as well. Zumkehr, for example, after completing an incredible set of handstands, sits and sings, accompanying himself on guitar. Talk about versatility! And the urbane street scene element enters the picture too as all play basketball and move across the stage on skate boards. You've never seen a basketball hit in so many different ways from so many diverse body parts! And, whether, they're skating, pole vaulting, doing somersaults across stage, or just playing the piano - it all blends together with a unique rhythm/split-second timing which makes it appear that the 7 folks are working as one, like a hand with 7 fingers, as the French name implies, or a wheel whose spokes are in total harmony.

Great stuff, even when they're just fooling around and hitting each other like The Three Stooges, Traces is brilliantly conceived and executed. You do not want to miss a single moment!

5 out of 5 stars

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