Redefining nouveau circus, the dance company CIRCA’s upcoming production may not include lions, tigers or bears, but it might still stop your heart with its dancers’ skills. Combining tumbling, acrobats and, to the uninitiated audience, seemingly physics-defying tricks, this company and performance spells out just one one thing: This isn’t your grandparents’ circus.
The circus comes to town
Redefining nouveau circus, the dance company CIRCA’s upcoming production may not include lions, tigers or bears, but it might still stop your heart with its dancers’ skills.
Combining tumbling, acrobats and, to the uninitiated audience, seemingly physics-defying tricks, this company and performance spells out just one one thing: This isn’t your grandparents’ circus.
“Traditionally when you think of a circus you think of tents and animals,” said Walter Jaffe, co-founder of White Bird Dance, a Portland nonprofit dance organization committed to bringing both traditional and experimental dance to the city. “Today’s circus means different things. CIRCA is very based on the body.”
CIRCA dancers fly across the stage with minimal sets and only tumbling mats as props.
“There [are] not a lot of extraneous materials or props,” Jaffe said. “It’s unbelievable what these artists do.”
The lack of props and the instrumental music only enhance the message CIRCA brings to the stage: the power and beauty of the human body and its movements.
Founded in 2006, CIRCA derived its name from the Latin word meaning “around” or “about.” The production is also called CIRCA and is focused on the dancers’ physicality.
“The name combines the language of circus and [the] language of dance, much like the performance itself and the mission of the company,” said Thomas Kriegsmann, an agent for the company. “Dance is at the base of what they do. They’re one of the only companies in the world to do it. Their physical extremity is derived from the circus.”
Much like the world-famous Cirque du Soleil of Canada, this fusion and redefinition of circus elements and dance is becoming quite a performing arts trend.
Based out of Brisbane, Australia, CIRCA is guided by Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz who has, to date, directed more than 60 productions.
“They are redefining the word ‘circus,’” Kriegsman said.
Lifschitz’s 75-minute program has been performed in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland and Italy to much critical acclaim. The performance next week will be the company’s Portland premiere.
“They’ve been to Seattle previously,” Kriegsman said, “and they’re thrilled to be in Portland.”
Their unconventional style and death-defying work is a good fit for Portland’s eccentric tastes, and many previous reviews promise a show that will have you on the edge of your seat.
White Bird Dance has a long history of finding innovative dance troupes to bring to Portland. Founded in 1997 by Paul King, Walter Jaffe and Barney the cockatoo (the white bird in the name), the company is celebrating its 15th anniversary on April 7.
Wednesday, April 10, to Saturday, April 13
1111 SW Broadway
Tickets: $26–64, go to whitebird.org/tickets
This season brings dance companies from as nearby as the Southwest United States and New York, all the way to France, Taiwan, the Netherlands and others from Australia.
Jaffe described the process of finding all these companies to perform here.
“We meet with agents at conferences in New York, we make contacts at festivals both nationally and internationally,” Jaffe said. “Just recently we went to Helsinki, Finland, and to Israel.”
One of White Bird Dance’s goals, as stated in its mission statement, is to make dance exciting and accessible to everyone—including the CIRCA event.
“It’s spellbinding,” Jaffe said of CIRCA. “Circus today means different things. CIRCA explores danger zones of what a body can do. It’s incredibly exciting for all different people of all different ages.”
Clearly they are doing something right: The reviews coming from all over the 24 countries CIRCA has toured rave over their incredibly intricate and powerful performances that effortlessly combine the grace of the human body, the precision of the acrobat and the simplicity of contemporary dance.