June 9: Traces
Quebec-based troupe, Les 7 Doigts de la Main, flips, jumps, catapults, cartwheels, and even sings its way through 90 minutes of sheer fun
You haven’t really considered human flexibility until you’ve watched a man fling himself through a two-foot ring, five feet high, feet first. Such was the case at Traces last night, a spectacular Spoleto performance that showcases a circus act-cum dance-off of the seemingly impossible. The Quebec-based troupe, Les 7 Doigts de la Main (Seven Fingers), flips, jumps, catapults, spins, cartwheels, and even sings its way through 90 minutes of sheer fun. I’d qualify them as gymnasts, but that would be selling them short.
The production begins with a bare stage, the curtains a tattered mess of army green. On a back scrim, a security camera counts down the minutes until curtain while airing the audience milling in. The performance started 15 minutes late. Whether or not that was commentary on our world today (as the program had many references to time) it’s hard to say, but from my vantage point it was quite annoying. C’mon Charleston, show a little common courtesy and arrive on time, this is the theatre, not your tailgate! But I digress.
The evening opened with a pas de deux between the lone woman, Valérie Benoît-Charbonneau, and American Mason Ames. The six-foot, two-inch Ames hoists the petite five-foot, one-inch Benoît-Charbonneau through the air in one of the most athletic but incredibly sensual experience I’ve seen in modern dance.
The cast took turns displaying their many talents, from Cirque de Soliel veteran Xia Zhengqi skill with Chinese juggling to Bradley Henderson’s (aka the human-top) centrifugal spin through one giant metal hoop. Mid performance the entire cast attacked two at least 20-foot high bars. Climbing up them, extending from them at a 90-degree angle, showcasing what the infomercials for the Ab Buster so wishes it could promise. Then gripping by feet only, cast members would allow themselves to drop the entire 20-feet before catching themselves inches from the floor. The audience must have been blue because we were all holding our breath.
But perhaps the best part of this show was hearing from the balcony the excited giggle of one child—one kid absolutely having the time of their lives. And that giggle alone makes me believe there's hope for live theatre, because there’s really nothing else like it.