Monday, October 01, 2012

Review of SEQUENCE 8 By Amy Tighe

Review of
By Amy Tighe
Performed by Les 7 doigts de la main
Directed by Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila
Presented by Arts Emerson, commissioning partner
Cutler Majestic Theatre
219 Tremont Street, Boston Theatre District
September 27 thru October 7, 2012
Recommended for all ages
Tickets from $25-$79
available through
 or 617-824-8400

Your heart is a generosity.  It beats alone in your own body and in tandem with every other heart on this planet. 

Experiencing SEQUENCE 8 is as intimate and as generous as feeling your own hopeful heart when it finally connects to the beating of our global heart.  The combination of classic circus performances, precisely choreographed and inspired dance and superior acrobatic skills by 8 young artists, all sly masters in their disciplines, simply opens us to a new future.  The troupe, called Les 7 doigts de la main, relies on personal strength, focus and endless joy from the individual artists and a seamless collaboration with one another.  There is almost no high tech technology, the circus props have all been used for hundreds of years in circuses and street theatres, and an elegantly simple set design creates a night of transformation for all. 

Years ago when a lesser circus came to town, at the Boston Garden, you could go and watch the animals out back.  You couldn’t get close to them, but it was better than the zoo.  I was a clown wannabe at the time, and hung around as much as possible to feed my  facepaint  fantasies.  The tigers were housed in the back. There were four baby tigers, less than a year old in a cage together. You could get really close to them and I spent hours watching them. 

 I raised kittens, and was familiar with the play all felines share.  But this was different.  I was witnessing “play” in its original form, an element as necessary as oxygen.  The tribe of tigers were fascinated with everything and attached to nothing.  One watched us humans as we watched her, while she indifferently chewing on a sibling’s ear, and at the same time  another sibling was capturing her tail between his large  clumsy paws.  Then in an instant, they would change, stalk and pounce on the imaginary gazelle in their cage in unison before they collapsed into corners to wash themselves ferociously.

Sequence 8 was sort of like that, only better.
Les 7 doigts de la main is a Montreal based troupe. Their name is a play on words – instead of the unison of five fingers on one hand, they describe their troupe as having “beautifully awkward dexterity” whose “initial goal was to bring circus to a human scale.”  Watch out.  They do it.  
This is NOT Cirque du Soliel or Ringling Brothers.  Yes, many of the feats are similar to what you have seen before—a lithe gorgeous young woman performing scary circus miracles in a ring above the crowd, elastic acrobats throwing themselves through impossible openings, adorable powerful young men scootling up poles as easily as most of us breathe.

But here is what is different: This troupe takes us into their hearts while they play. The evening starts off with a moderator thanking us for being there. After all, he says, they would not be performers without an audience.  And, he adds, “you wouldn’t be much of an audience without the performers—you’d be sitting staring at an empty stage, right? “

And that’s when it starts—the performers have declared  “Tag, you’re it!” Surprised, you are caught and so you just run.  They draw you into to their performance, whether it is doing a double somersault on a bouncing balance beam, or soaring through the theatre while being catapulted by a see-saw, you are there.  Tag, you are it, catch them if you can.  And if you can’t, it doesn’t matter because they have taken us all in to become baby tigers at play. We are led back to engage with the archetype of original play and deep innocence.

The sense of intimacy and familiarity is profoundly crafted into each artist’s performance.  You don’t really watch these performers, you experience your connection to them as they twist, catch, fly and question common sense.  Hanging upside down on a trapeze by just the top of your foot is something we have seen before, but when this troupe performer does it, the entire audience is arching their foot with him and feeling the breeze in their hair as he swings.  We exhaled as one when he landed.
My well dressed neighbors in the seats next to me tell me that they just feel love when they watch Les 7 doigts de la main.  They feel the love between the performers and they feel how the performers love their work.  I am surprised at this, a middle aged couple talking so freely about love after the show.  But, it is the first circus I have ever seen to receive a spontaneous standing ovation, so perhaps more than just my section neighbors feel it.

We talk about youth, about being twice the age of who we have just seen, I think we might go on a diatribe about regrets from our own lives and the yoga classes we should really get back to…..  After all, the audience is mostly older tonight

But we don’t. Something has changed. We have witnessed mastery:  the strength of practicing a feat over and over until your body can catch a colleague dropping from 8 feet and throw her to another’s waiting arms without anyone missing a heartbeat.  We witnessed a group of artists not only create and inhabit a world of total interdependence, but play effortlessly and generously within it.  We have felt them open to us as playmates.

As I leave the theatre, I ask the dyed cherry-red-haired 20-something patrons who sat at the top balcony, if they felt the immediacy of the performers.  I also ask two tiny Russian women, who are “a leetle over 70, some” tottering as they leave, what they thought.  Each and everyone replies “I felt  them” as they unconsciously touch their hearts.  “But that leetle girl,” continues my tiny Russian new friend strongly, “I worry for her.”

Sequence 8 is an intimate and intelligent invitation to experience our collective heart.  Go, and play, and be ready to hear your heart open.

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