Pasa Reviews Circus Luminous
Between the cars and the crowds heading away from the Plaza tree lighting and those destined for the Lensic Performing Arts Center for Circus Luminous, on the night after Thanksgiving, downtown was bustling like any big city. Despite the traffic snarls, the mood was joyous, making for a festive atmosphere as we entered the Lensic and took our seats for the annual aerial circus, presented by Wise Fool New Mexico, featuring all local and regional performers. This year’s circus was directed by Danielle Reddick, whose work in experimental performance with the ensemble at Theater Grottesco was evident in the through-line story about bugs, amoebas, and other wiggly life forms not always apparent to the naked eye. That plot was relayed by expressive actors playing a cartoonish science teacher and students, all of whom had different reactions to learning that the creepy crawlers would not scrub off in the shower. Enhanced by a live orchestra playing a score composed by Jeremy Bleich, the story was woven between and into the individual acts of gravity-defying acrobatics and dance. Performers were costumed to symbolically resemble some of the mysterious creatures — including the Wise Fool youth ensemble, who stilt-walked while clad in silver jumpsuits. The nature of the circus carried the rest of the theme: As performers juggled while riding four-abreast on a bicycle, bent themselves gracefully around metal hoops suspended far above the stage, and shimmied up and down silk ropes, the abilities of their bodies seemed more insect-like than human.
A few technical difficulties with projections marred the opening-night production, such as a screensaver of a desert mesa that popped up behind the aerialists — followed by desktop icons. One of the jugglers had a few misses with bowling pins, and took a tumble off her unicycle, but the seasoned performer integrated her goofs into a bit of slapstick and the show went on. Sarah Jane Moody came out twice with a clown routine that was subtle but funny, as she mumbled and gently tumbled her way to understanding the bug theme. The 3 HC Holy Faith break-dancing crew engaged the audience with high-energy head spins and other impressive ways of twisting and stacking their bodies, some of which were executed by a very small boy, Ricky Rodriguez Jr., the son of one of the members. The acrobatic performances by the Wise Fool Company were stellar, especially “Too Big to Be Small,” in which four women in exquisite light blue costumes reminiscent of a Maxfield Parrish painting did aerial ballet on hoops.
What stands out most about Circus Luminous is the evident dedication of every performer. Children in the audience gasped and exclaimed in amazement, and it was obvious that many of them had been looking forward to the event since the previous Thanksgiving weekend. The strength and stamina required by the performers to make their moves look effortless is tremendous, and when, toward the end of the night, their shaking muscles became visible, it made it all the more rewarding to watch what they accomplished. — Jennifer Levin
Left to right, Tara Khozein, Kristina Francisco, and Amy Bertucci-Nieto, Circus Luminous 2015; Gabriella Marks Photography