Cirque Éloize iD | Review
The city's newest urban circus is both gritty and graceful, putting an acrobatic twist on the feel-good show with the coolest of combinations and athleticisms.
What do you get when a dance expert (Zachary Whittenburg) and a stage enthusiast (Joanna Batt) get together for an urban circus? A whole lot to talk about. And by talk about, we mean gush about. Here's our blow-by-blow review of Cirque Éloize iD, at the Cadillac Palace through May 8.
Zachary Whittenburg: So you loved it.
Joanna Batt: I did, I loved it.
ZW: What would you say about what ages it’s appropriate for? I noticed some kids in the audience who were 4 or so.
JB: There were some really young kids there, which was fine. But I think you’d get a richer experience out of it if you bring middle- to high school–age kids, with the urban theme and all. Some of the music and choreography was pretty aggressive.
ZW: But every time it got near bump-and-grindy, it backed away. It definitely stayed all-ages appropriate. Too, in the second act, it takes a while to get back in the action.
JB: But then comes the trampoline segment, and some of the more stunning acts.
ZW: The trampoline moment is hypnotic; there’s something almost soft about it, which is a really nice way to end a circus show—without the ta-dah! finish.
JB: And not just in the jumps, but in how they suspend themselves each time before the jump. It was my favorite part for sure.
ZW: Another thing I really liked was that everyone does a lot of different stuff. The juggler just doesn’t come out, do his juggling, and then leave. When you see the juggler return and do the trampoline and the acrobatic stuff, and you see the roller blader come back and do the silks duet—
JB: That was beautiful.
ZW: —yeah, then you get a sense of how much more impressive it is than one person coming out and doing that one trick.
JB: Absolutely. And you become invested in them, you recognize them and then it’s even cooler when they pull out a second act. Everyone was genuinely into it. You could just tell they were having so much fun. When someone truly loves what they’re doing, it shows all over their face. That was the case the entire time.
ZW: What did you think of the contortionist duet? I’m always on the fence with those acts.
JB: It had a beautiful rhythm to it. I loved how Emi Vauthey disappeared, with the flower as the ending, slipping through the little window. Then she was the silks performer later. In fact, I’m pretty sure her head was between her legs the entire show.
ZW: And by the way, the lighting was so well integrated and so connected to what we saw. It was just above and beyond well done. All the optical illusion stuff in the trampoline section, it was just “wow.” What they were doing physically was already amazing, and then the lighting added a whole other layer. They were literally jumping on things that looked like they were disappearing.
JB: The spotlighting was amazing! But there were nail-biting moments, like when the real MVP guy of the show, Fletcher Sanchez, was scaling the pole and then dropping down just inches off the ground. He was so high up, with no harness.
ZW: And I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone spin on his head—30 or 40 times—for as long as I saw that one cast member do. That was one of the show strengths: There was always a focal point, plus so much else going on.
JB: I loved how everyone had real bodies, too. I feel at circus shows you either see everyone’s ribs or they’re totally beefed-up. These performers were people, incredibly athletic, but healthy. I even forgot sometimes that it was a circus show—their rare gestures for applause, like “Hey, I’m up here,” were all very genuine.
ZW: There’s a really nice, mellow, no-big-deal energy to it, that matched the break-dance, street-dance atmosphere.
JB: You would expect the “urban” feel to go angry and dark, but they were just happy to be performing.
ZW: There were a few fight scenes.
JB: But then the “fight” would become an act. And the ending of each act was usually on an up note, or something sweet, funny or playful. I really enjoyed the attitude of it.
ZW: Right. The one place where it felt like it might get gritty was the jump-rope act, but that one becomes almost goofy. It was also the messiest part of the show, where they missed a couple of elements. Granted, they try some incredible stuff, like the nested double-dutch.
JB: Did you also get a West Side Story vibe?
ZW: For sure.
JB: I appreciated, too, that it was such a racially diverse cast. And no obnoxious circus music. What was your favorite part?
ZW: I really enjoyed the trampoline sequence. It was well-choreographed—they got the most out of each element, and there was a nice mix of ensemble and soloist moments. The way the set was “choreographed” with it, too, was successful.
JB: The set—all of the technical aspects—were pretty incredible.
ZW: Absolutely, and I was glad to see the two chief tech directors given bows along with the onstage performers.
JB: I noticed that, too. And they came out on first curtain call.
ZW: Did you see much relation to the “theme” in the program at all? What Jeannot Painchaud, the director, wrote about “expressing one’s individuality and affirming one’s identity, in order to reclaim possession of public space, and to dance for the city?”
JB: Not really. It had an aesthetic theme, a look to it, but I didn’t get a story.
ZW: I did enjoy the dancerliness of all of it, and felt that helped tie the acts together.
JB: The sense of rhythm.
ZW: Totally, beyond set-up, ta-dah! Set-up, ta-dah! It was usually more complex than that.
JB: And there was always more than one thing to look at. I thought the performers’ timing was impeccable.
ZW: Yes, especially the “construction site” scene, when the juggler, Nicolas Fortin, is bouncing tennis balls off of all of those “windows” as they’re being carrying around. It all went off without a hitch.
JB: What did you think about the ending?
ZW: The big dance number? I thought it was brave, but they pulled it off. It’s obvious that the America’s Best Dance Crew–style, synchronized choreography isn’t every cast member’s strongest suit, but it’s impressive that, after all of those eye-popping acts, a simple dance routine managed not to feel ho-hum in comparison. The choreographer, Christian “Sancho” Garmatter, didn’t make it simple just because some of the performers aren’t trained as dancers, which I appreciated.
JB: Maybe that was the show’s statement—we’re all in this together, despite our separate talents, so let’s make it work as a team.