The mats have been folded, the juggling balls stored, and the artists of Flip Fabrique and Cirque Eloize are now pancaking their faces in another town. The circus may have come and gone, but what it left in its wake was an unshakeable demonstration of human resolve and a rare opportunity for Santa Barbara audiences to experience the breadth of Quebecois circus.
In Blizzard, Flip Fabrique invoked the ancient art of commedia dell’arte to choreograph a madly entertaining “Canadian Winter Survival Guide” with expertly timed delivery that folded seamlessly into head-shaking acrobatic arrangements. In Hotel, Cirque Eloize wove slapstick humor around a dazzling, Wes Anderson-esque set where the artists displayed a hyper-range of talents as interchangeable acrobats, aerialists, dancers, and jugglers. Oh, and musicians, too.
Influenced by tradition, contemporary circus still yearns to dazzle, seemingly flirting with gravity and injury to hold an audience’s gaze. And yet between fantastical displays of ferocity, the interludes of quiet humanity endure. In Hotel, that moment arrived in the form of a haunting composition of stacked bodies, as limbs and arms connected skyward while sound clips from the movie Casablanca echoed in the background. For one arresting instant, towering sculptures formed a human forest, hovering over the audience in an affecting show of protection.
In Blizzard, the seemingly mundane act of rigging became a ritualistic dance of transformation, at one point posing a technical challenge that resulted in a beautifully modified finale. That safety won out over spectacle, was the most poignant movement of all.