By a Thread

21 October, Napier Muni, HBAF2018
One Fell Swoop Circus
By Megan Seawright

The stage is set with a singular long, thick rope suspended through two pulleys awaiting a crowd in anticipation. We are meet with seven aerial performers. They climb each other in a dynamic balance formation that looks like steps, so as to get a bit of height for one performer to swing onto the rope. It is a symbolic expression of the collective, the chain of progressions, that stands behind any singular achievement.

That’s how it all starts, this intimacy. Leaning on another or someone offering their back to take the weight. Our imaginations are immediately playing with what we see. The sequences are frequently fun and funny. We laugh. The rope is manipulated and strained, counter balanced and rigged further with knots and pushes all to avail the performers the shared spaces they require.

It’s the ultimate in team work. For every solo sequence there are three or more performers always acting as counter weight.  We watch sequences of sudden drops, back arches, acrobats hanging upside down by their toes and a 360 degree rotation of the body through the shoulders’ whist, suspended in mid-air by their wrists. The audience becomes duly silent with only an occasional gasp and frequent pattering after each sequence.

The absence of any narrative means the spectacle is in the principles of aerial work itself, which by its nature necessitates hearty trust between performers and their rope. One Fell Swoop Circus have mastered this trust to the point of working in joy. Incredible. Every approach is a fluid, unrelenting recollection of the next collective movement. Each performer is always in the right place at the right time with timing immaculate.

And let’s not forget the refined flexibility and strength and the gymnastic endurance that is cleanly apparent. In the details, each sculptured aerial was performed with calm grace and with a smile. This is primed physicality; sliding into extensions, upside down after a leg hook off the rope, or forming into a handstand with sustained core engagement then lowering oneself to the ground on one hand.

It is the phenomenon of human kinesiology with physics. The performers all make it look sublime in their elongated smooth twists of the rope. The complex is perfect and looks easy, such as the sequence where the performer slides down the rope on her back, horizontal, no hands.  We are shocked by the phenomenal balance.

The intimacy is taken further in a pairs’ sequence conveying interdependence. And the counter weight crew pulls the rope far off the stage to give the couple privacy as they work supportively together in unhurried moments of temperance and careful pace. It is beautiful.

Expressions of trust lay open in hand holds, foot placements, occasionally spoken codes like: “coming off, “weight coming down, climbing”, “base-ing, watching”. All the disciplines of this craft.

At the end of this cohesive, sustained performance, when the rope is finally pulled fully through to the ground, the audience erupts, stomp, cheer – jubilant.

By a Thread = a single white rope + circus skills at their finest. You’ve got to see this equation!

By a Thread is on again in the Muni, Monday 22 October, 11am.



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