Editor’s Fanfare Vol. III, No. 8

 Acrobatic Actors or Actors as Acrobats

The 7 Fingers Company’s latest production is Cuisine and Confessions.  My review appears on the Passing Spectacle page of this issue.  In this production all of the performers are asked to do double duty, astound us with acrobatics and move us emotionally with their spoken soliloquies.

If incorporating the spoken word into its choreographed acrobatics is the route the new circus intends to take, and judging by the phenomenal success of the 7 Finger company and given the fact that in the arts imitation is, in addition to being the sincerest form of flattery, the path most taken,  this is the form all the new  emerging circus companies that would love to duplicate 7 Fingers’  success will be taking.  So, it does seem as if this is what we will be seeing a good deal of in the not too distant future.

What makes this seem even more likely is that, ironically in the arts, even flashy failures are copied as well successes.  Look at the number of companies that have announced intentions to tour some version of acrobatics and symphony orchestras even though after their initial success, none of the companies which have tried this have been able to produce a viable and ongoing tour.  They’ve been mostly one shot deals.

But if indeed this is the route others will try to go, circus artists will need to consider another element to their training, so that they can be  effective actors as well as  amazing acrobats.  To give the performers of Cuisine and Confessions  their due their vocal performances are not complete embarrassments, but neither are they ever as effective at that as they are in throwing saltos.

In my review of Cuisine and Confessions  I observe that the show follows the same structure as the company’s most successful production Traces,  but in thinking about it further  it occurs to me that the real roots of these shows can be traced more tellingly to the musical theatre production A Chorus Line, in which the dancers each has a soliloquy, that often leads into a song.  As it turns out the cast of A Chorus Line needed to be made up of people who were both exceptional dancers as well as effective actors, as the structure of the show is dance interspersed with spoken segments just as Traces and Cuisine  and Confessions  is made up of  acrobatics interspersed with spoken monologues.

These spoken segments are meant, I presume, to move audiences emotionally, otherwise why even include them.  Unfortunately they are not equally as effective.

So If that is the route the new circus wishes to take, its artists  will have to start taking acting more seriously than they have done in the past, concentrating more time on vocal development, characterization, and other aspects of acting technique aimed at projecting emotion instead of merely providing information or playing themselves, the most uncomfortable kind of acting assignment for most actors..

Do circus schools have time to incorporate such instruction into what already seems packed schedules focusing on physical performance?  To do so may cause a tug of war between disciplines, but if it can be worked out, so much the better for all concerned.

The problem producers and directors who are casting a “new” show in which the artists are expected to deliver creditable dialogue, without greater training in acting, will soon be having to decide between a candidate whose acrobatics skills are at a much higher level than their acting skills, or vice versa.  It is the same kind of decision people casting musicals often have to make as well.  Which skill is most important: dance, singing or acting? Acrobatics or acting?   I have a feeling for some time to come acrobatics will win out over acting, and the new circus will have to do deal with that uneasy compromise, for it will take time for circus artists to “brush up your Shakespeare.”

We have added a photo gallery of images from Circo Hermanos Vazquez which were not available at the time  of the previous issue when the review of the show appeared.  We admire the show so much we thought it not inappropriate to give you another look at it and especially the work of Ryan Combs and Steve Copeland.