Cirque Eloize Defies Limitations

The New York Times

SUNDAY, MAY 7, 2000




Since its New York debut four years ago, Cirque Eloize has won renown as the younger sibling of Cirque du Soleil. Founded by alumni of the Canadian circus, Cirque Eloize has been grabbing the attention of fans eager for an even more intimately theatrical and physically stunning production. The 10-person troupe continues to expand its tradition of eccentric circus theater and humor with Excentricus,‘ playing at the John Harms Center for the Arts in Englewood next Saturday.

Named for the famous heat lightning effects common in the Magdalen Islands off Quebec, where Cirque Eloize was born in 1993, the troupe sizzles with energy and elan. Even though some past performers, like the co-founder Jeannot Pinchard, have retired from the cast, the core ensemble still contains some of the best soloists in world. Daniel Cyr turns a freestanding ladder, typically used as a mere climbing post, into an athletic meditation. Somersaulting between the ladders rungs and balancing like a seal at the top, he displays strength combined with a graceful yearning.

The rope-climber Marc Gauthier commands the audiences attention. Wrapping the rope around his waist, arms and neck, he rolls up and down, never touching the floor. As he strives toward the ceiling, undergoing numerous backslides, Mr. Gauthier turns the simple act of climbing a rope into an ode to the human condition. His final plummet onto his back is both startling and moving.

Excentricusmight be set in a smoky French cafe. It begins with a dimly lighted band, led by Lucie Cauchon, accompanying a languid figure (Marie- Eve Dumais) stretched out on a trapeze, and continues with a mixture of whimsical choreography, passionate artistry and physical dexterity. Throughout the 90-minute performance, set to original music by Denis Hebert, bodies master apparatus with savoir-faire.

Jamie Adkins, a veteran of San Franciscos Pickle Family Circus and the lone American in the troupe, has become a fixture since joining last year. He performs a slack-rope solo and joins in the juggling and acrobatic numbers. Though performed to music, the piece is more character than choreography.

Its hard to be graceful on the slack wire because its always sliding out from under you,‘ he said. The piece is all about the discovery of the wire — the emotions, the fear.

At the Edinburgh Theater Festival last summer, Cirque Eloize won accolades for its lack of pretension, and never is this so apparent as in their five-person juggling act. Acrobatic three-man towers pass clubs back and forth. The exuberance and shared challenge of the juggling act binds this band of rugged individualists into a joyful and expert ensemble. Subsequent feats include a mini-tramp sequence, hand-to-hand balancing and contortions by Robert Bourgeois, Alain Bourdreau and Genevieve Cliche, and a Chinese-style group balance atop a moving bicycle. And Mr. Pinchards captivating bicycle act, with its tricky maneuvers and show-stopping panache, has been inherited by Sylvain Dubois.

Its a family business now, with Mr. Pinchard serving as artistic director while his real kids pedal around the block. Hooray for siblings — this show is highly recommended for bored teenagers, jaded sophisticates, aged aunties and other reluctant relatives. And dont forget the bicycle.


John Harms Center for the Arts, 30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood.