Auckland Arts Festival: Circus meets hip-hop in dazzling display

Colombian troupe crackles with athleticism

Circolombia's mix of urban dance styles and impressive gymnastic feats has a high fun factor. Photo / Sandra Roa
Circolombia's mix of urban dance styles and impressive gymnastic feats has a high fun factor. Photo / Sandra Roa

Screens filled with red clouds at dawn start this contemporary circus with hip-hop styling, but instead of a shepherd's warning, they herald a city delight. Numerous feats of wonderful strength and agility are performed by the 15-strong Circolombia troupe, with enough crackling attitude to glare down any bully-boy.

Gymnasts in streetwear leap and somersault to and from platforms made of each other's arms. Two of them fall from a high platform onto a see-saw catapult, shooting a teammate flipping and twirling building-high into the air.

It's an elaborate chain reaction worthy of a Rube Goldberg contraption or a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

Acrobats suspended in mid-air sway and spin vigorously. The audience in the upper levels gets a treat when one of the two women in the troupe swings over the stalls to say hello.

Multi-talented, the crew intersperse their tricks with sinuous street dancing of loose limbs and edgy grace: hip-hop with a soupcon of capoeira and a few breakdance freezes. The singing doesn't come across so well, but we know they're not lip-synching; the rapping is better and all the music is suitable and original. Not many words are translated, but their pronunciation of "kia ora" is perfect.

There is little in the way of set, but lighting and poses evoke a boxing gym, nightclub and street.

The performers dramatically arrange themselves into rival groups; it's West Side Story's Shark Ballet updated by people who know from experience how fantastical this gang parody is.

Having all studied at the National School of Circo Para Todos (Circus For All) for disadvantaged youth, they are "taking the piss out of their own stereotypes", as British founder and artistic director Felicity Simpson has said in the past.

At the same time, the one "true" story points out that success brings a few problems of its own.

Breakdance battles turn into impressive jump-rope battles. Joke-sneering, the crew take joy in their physiques, and twitch their muscles to comic effect. Individual personalities are instantly communicated.

Day of the Dead skeletons make a brief appearance. Impressive, and lots of fun.

Urban

Who: Circolombia

Where: The Civic

When: Until Sunday

Reviewer: Janet McAllister

- NZ Herald

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