April 12, 2018
Circus has a come a long way since it focused purely on spectacle and began to be more self-conscious about integrating other art forms. Essentially, it has either gone down the chainsaw juggling route of Archaos that could be said to have sparked the circus revival of the 1980s and early 1990s or the more theatrical route of companies such as Cirque de Soleil. Of course, there are also traditional circuses such as Zippos and Gifford’s, more of which later in the year.
Led by Sean Gandini, Gandini Juggling have been re-inventing a very traditional art form for the modern era, having formed in 1992. They have collaborated with a wide variety of performers from other disciplines. Having previously combined ballet and bharatanatyam with juggling, in Spring, Sean Gandini works with contemporary dancers and choreographer Alexander Whitley.
The overarching theme of the work is colour, the dancers and jugglers ably assisted by a simple but effective lighting design from Guy Hoare which alternates between solid colours, white and clever use of shadows. The original electronic score by the wonderful Gabriel Prokofiev incorporates strings to great effect in a soundscape that would standalone and provide very stimulating listening.
Dancers and jugglers co-mingle. The traditional trio of balls, clubs and hoops is used, with the dancers getting to join in on occasions, while the jugglers also dance. Clad in neutral greys and greens, they work their way through a palette of colours, mesmerising all with wonderfully rhythmic juggling and spoken word.
Especially effective use is made of hoops that are white on one side and coloured on the other. There’s almost a lesson in juggling from the basics upward as they begin by instituting a whispered count (100 repetitions, no problem) and later vocalise as they swap the faces of the ring to create a marvellous visual effect that make the hoops seem as if they metamorphose in mid-air.
Balls hop and bounce like popcorn in a machine, the rhythm so perfect that they seem attached by strings. But it was the hops that dazzled. Carefully lit and partly in shadow, they fizz like bubbles in champagne, then are allowed to drop en masse releasing the tension and the held breath as human error is subverted by deliberation. Dancers call out the sequence of colours: red, yellow, green blue, as jugglers swap facia with lightning speed and dexterity. Such was the efficiency and efficacy of their movement that it appeared as if their arms were simply scissoring from the elbow in a simple back and forth motion. Only with concentration was it possible to perceive fingers and wrists that moved even quicker. The focus was total but coupled with a Zen-like control of the body to meld into a being that seemed fused with the items being juggled.
Speaking as one who has the hand-eye co-ordination that comes naturally to the dead drunk and whose dog soon learns to look anywhere but ahead when a ball is being thrown (I swear that my last dog tutted audibly when his ball ended up in the lake – again), I was impressed. I also came away feeling oddly serene.
Spring is an utterly lovely work, just the right length and a perfect example of gesamtkunstwerk.
Gandini Juggling are presently touring Spring and other works. Visit www.gandinijuggling.com for dates and venues.