Energetic acrobatic show, TRACES, arrives on the Toronto stage
The phenomenon of the acrobatic, thrilling (but non-animal) circus has been enjoying a delightful proliferation in North America of late, as the success of such largely wordless acts as Blue Man Group and the venerable Cirque du Soleil have exploded. In this tradition comes the charming, stylish 7 Fingers’ original production TRACES, playing at the Panasonic Theatre until January. Arriving just in time for you to take your out-of-town relatives, this will give you ninety minutes of something lovely to watch (while not talking) followed by a further chance to talk about whether there’s any universe in which you might be able to accomplish what the acrobats/dancers/generally quite springy humans in TRACES are able to accomplish (no spoilers, but: probably not).
Though the show does seem to have a narrative concept — or perhaps several discrete narrative moments — I found them to be somewhat like all of the similar things in acrobatic circus acts: a bit thin and somewhat distracting. The thing is, it rarely matters. We are not here to consider the nature of time, or the history of anything at all, either. We are here to watch very talented, extremely nimble, and almost worrisomely quick young people delight and amaze us with their physical skills. For that, TRACES has you covered and then some.
As a show, it’s somewhere between a quite muscular dance concert and a proper circus. Certainly there are a variety of stunts and tricks, with leaping through hoops and climbing and flipping up and around poles being interspersed with all-company and duet-style choreography. Some of the choreography features basketballs and skateboards, in a transparent but relatively successful attempt to appeal to the “all family” audience demographic. Other bits are romantic heterosexualized duets and still others are somewhere in the neighborhood of roughhousing/rumpusing that periodically evolves into dancing about, with a slightly post-apocalyptic veneer painted over top.
The cast, six boys and one girl, eventually starts to seem kind of like a pack of puppies who have been given some very cool toys: a Cyr wheel gets a great turn, a series of Diabolo tricks, there’s hoop diving, teeterboard, trapeze, arial straps and more. Don’t know what half those things are? Doesn’t matter a bit. Sit back and watch the pretty people fly – literally – through the air, land on their feet, smile like it was nothing and do it again, making it look so easy that the uninitiated have no idea how hard some of the stunts their watching are. Their energy never seems to flag, and there’s a sweetness among them that seems unforced — like many groups of great performers, they seem to have preserved the ability to genuinely enjoy one another. It shows onstage.
On a personal note, I particularly enjoyed the fact that no trick was left undone on this stage. As the tumbling complexities intensified, especially in the Chinese hoop, there were a couple of instances where one of the cast tagged a hoop and sent it to the ground instead of floating cleanly through. Undeterred, they went back for another pass and nailed it each time, prompting an even bigger round of applause from the audience.
If I’d had any of my children with me, I would have taken the moment to point out that even at this elite level, where things look absolutely effortless, sometimes people aren’t perfect — but they can always keep at it and try again. Whether they would have listened or just kept chattering excitedly about how totally awesome it was, though, feels difficult to say.
- TRACES by 7 Fingers plays at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St.
- Performances through 3 January, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30PM and Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 1:30PM. See the website for a few holiday extras and closures.
- Tickets range in price from $25-$75
- Tickets may be purchased online, by phone at (416) 872-1212 or in person at the theatre box office.