In 1984 Cirque du Soleil started a revolution and won it. Now it’s the Apple of acrobatic entertainment, with a Canadian corporate campus that looks like it belongs in Silicon Valley. Ironically, it was while visiting that campus that I got my first look at the next revolution. As spare as CdS is opulent, as ensemble-based as CdS is hierarchical, as body-centered as CdS is committed to gadgetry, France’s Compagnie XY presented one of the most inventive circus performances I’ve ever seen, a piece called Il N’est Pas Encore Minuit (It’s Not Yet Midnight).
The revolt continues in Acéléré, running briefly at Chicago Shakespeare Theater as part of Destinos, this year’s edition of the Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. Created and performed by Circolombia, from Bogotá, this hour-long circus takes the aesthetic simplicity that made Midnight feel so new and casts it in an entirely different idiom.
Midnight evoked modern dance (although the dancers flew a lot); its silent narrative offered an apocalyptic vision redeemed by communal trust (because the community members knew they could stand on one another’s shoulders). By contrast, Acéléré builds on Latinx hip-hop and speaks—both physically and in songs sung by the knockout team of Juliana Valentina Toro Velasquez and Diana Particia Vargas Montoya—about old-fashioned love and romance. But the real subject of Acéléré is bodies launched into space by other bodies, landing with breathtaking accuracy on narrow beams or on platforms constructed out of still more bodies. When an apparatus does appear, it consists (with one bizarre exception) of nothing more complicated than a fulcrum or a rope. Under director Felicity Simpson and choreographer Carlos Neto, the show parlays a nearly bare stage and a cast of ten into something airy, vibrant, ungadgety, and fun. v