Surrender to wire and rope: WireDo by Hanna Moisala

C South, Edinburgh
August 8, 2018

David Mead

First presented by Lumo Company as part of a showcase of Finnish circus work at Jackson’s Lane in London in 2016, WireDo brings together tightwire walking and shibari, the ancient Japanese art of artistically binding the human body with ropes. It sounds, indeed is, an odd combination. Perhaps surprisingly, it never ventures out of one’s comfort zone, though.

The first thing you see is the rig. Sat on an otherwise empty stage, the steel frame, ropework and wire is a work of art in itself. Performer Hanna Moisala has an elegant confidence as she explores the possibilities of all three elements. Early on, there is also some stylish work with a long broom-handle size stick that reminded me of another Japanese practice: the martial art of kendo.

The music, by Terhi Pippuri, with its cymbals, bells and minimalist sounds adds to the Eastern flavour.

WireDo gets more interesting when Moisala forgoes the freedom of the floor for the restrictions of the rig, and the ropes. There is some cool use of the three-strand rope fixed to the rig that provides a shifting support for rolls and balances, best of which comes when she uses just one rope a single one as a sort of extremely minimalist hammock. As she smiles at the audience, you wonder how on earth she looks so comfortable. However, while Moisala binds the other ropes around herself, she is not bound by them. I didn’t detect any hint of the submissive elements that often come with shibari. Indeed, she can still move her limbs and body freely, as she later demonstrates on the tightwire, the highlight of the show.

There are any number of seriously impressive moments that leave you wondering how she maintains balance, not least when she lowers, slowly, smoothly and so gracefully into splits. Remarkable too is a back-and-forth dance along the wire, that in ballet-speak would be full of glissades and petit allegro. And all without the slightest hint of a wobble. The control is amazing.

As interesting and impressive as it all is, WireDo feels like the start or mid-point of an experiment rather than the end. It does increasingly feel like a series of mini-acts with little connection between them. I wanted more. A hint of narrative would certainly have been welcome. Some of the links between sections also feel very spun out with the dance parts on the floor especially feeling like they are there just to fill time.

But back to the ropes, and a beautiful final image: Moisala spinning gracefully in mid-air, her body curled as if in a cocoon, as she swings, suspended from the tightwire above.