A fabulous feel-good evening with Circolombia and Choir of Man

Assembly Festival Garden, Coventry
July 2, 2021

David Mead

They hadn’t performed for 18 months and had, as they said at the beginning, “a year-and-a-half’s worth of energy to share. But quarantine hotel stay completed, Circolombia are back. Nine years ago, they thrilled audiences at the Birmingham Hippodrome as part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham. Now they’ve returned to the Midlands with another great show, this time in the spectacular double-decker spiegeltent The Queen of Flanders in the Assembly Festival Garden, part of the Coventry City of Culture celebrations.

Victor Leoncio Ortiz Narino (standing) and
Leidy Tatiana Zuleta Urbano of Circolombia
in the rare Percha act
Photo Dylan Parrin

The whole show (untitled) has a bit of a carnival atmosphere and a great easy-going vibe that belies the difficulty of the acrobatics. Powerful singing and some fast-paced dance keeps the energy level ramped up between the main acts. You’ll need your Spanish to understand much of it, but it gives the show a great good-night out feel. It also very cleverly hides the joins between the stunts. Not once does it feel like you are seeing things set up. There are dashes of humour here and there too.

It’s the acrobatics that provide all the highlights, though. From the first moment, when a performer falls from the first floor balcony, they will have you gripped. Much of it is aerial, which means a grandstand view for all.

A clever triple-performer, triple-ropes routine is followed by an aerial pas de deux, Cristian David Trivino Rincon (whose nickname is Paloma, which rather appropriately means dove), hanging from a single hand or foot while using his other hands and feet to support Laura Lucia Lloreda Martinez, his ever-rotating partner and real-life wife, all in harmony with the music. They also pull each other up with their teeth.

The acts get better and better. Most spellbinding is the rare Percha act, when Victor Leoncio Ortiz Narino balances a huge metal ring on his forehead while his partner, Leidy Tatiana Zuleta Urbano hangs from it and twists into beautiful shapes. Various images come to mind. At first, I thought a clock, with her has its human hands, but later, when she reclines on it, the moon, with her as Selene, its ancient goddess.

Another aerial special towards the end sees Martinez return, this time hanging beneath an umbrella before launching into a dramatic sequence of spins. Eat your heart out, Mary Poppins.

Circolombia at the Assembly Festival Garden, Coventry;
one of the many Coventry City of Culture 2021 events
Photo Dylan Parrin

The spielgeltent is a fabulous venue too. It’s easy to see why Assembly Festival Artistic Director William Burdett-Coutts said that when he saw it in Europe, he just had to bring it to the UK. It’s many mirrors aorund the wall means everything gets brilliantly reflected. The lighting for the Circolombia show also produced some beautiful shadows on the curves of the roof. And wherever you sit, you’re not far from the action.

Having said that, once piece of advice: seats are unallocated, so get there early and grab one in the front row. Just be prepared to duck occasionally!

Most evenings in Coventry, Circolombia is followed in the Queen of Flanders spiegeltent by Choir of Man. Make it a full evening and book for both. You will not be disappointed.

Time for a breather!
A quieter moment in The Jungle with the Choir of Man
Photo Dylan Parrin

The guys of The Jungle (their pub) have had to drop inviting you up on stage for a pint and a dance, for now, although they get round the first rather neatly by using a long paddle to deliver the beer. After that comes an effortless, easy-going diet of classic rock and wistful ballads, solo and ensemble, and some brilliant a cappella singing. It’s all led by narrator Conor Hanley, who tosses in a heartfelt eulogy on the loss of traditional pubs and the friendship experienced inside. There’s lots of humour but like the whole show, it’s all beautifully judged. They send you home with a high-energy, all-action beer glass-bashing dance.

I was still smiling about it all the next morning. The publicity reckons Choir of Man is the ‘ultimate feel good show.’ I’m not going to argue!

Great music, great singing, great energy (and beer!) with The Choir of Man
Photo Dylan Parrin

Circolombia and Choir of Man are at the Queen of Flanders, Assembly Festival Garden, Little Park Street, Coventry to July 31, 2021. Visit assemblyfestivalgarden.com for details and tickets.

For more what’s on at the Coventry City of Culture, visit www.coventry2021.co.uk.

After Coventry, and with some overlap, Choir of Man are at the Wunderground Festival at London’s Earls Court from July 15-September 5, 2021.