Traces is one extraordinary show: exciting, awe-inspiring, artful, athletic, mystical, funny.
The latest offering from Broadway/L.A. features a troupe of seven young artists, all of whom are skilled in a whole bunch of acrobatic and street elements such as skateboarding and basketball, mixed in with traditional dance and physical theatre. For good measure they throw in some traditional Chinese acrobatics such as balancing on each others’ heads, tumbling through hoops, and scaling giant poles without the use of their hands.
Traces comes to us from Montreal, which I sometimes think is one big circus tent. Not only has that city given us the magnificent accomplishments of Cirque Du Soleil, but also Cirque Eloize, Circus Smirkis, 7 Fingers Productions (Traces is just one of their shows), and the National Circus School in Quebec. The seven artists here are Mason Ames, Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau, Mathieu Cloutier, Bradley Henderson, Phillipe Normand-Jenny, Xia Zhengqi, and Florian Zumkehr. Their directors are Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, with Sebastien Soldevila providing the acrobatic design.
The conceit for the piece is quite clever. It takes place in a makeshift shelter with an unknown catastrophe lurking outside its doors. The characters have built this clubhouse to live to their fullest on what they believe will be their last day on earth. All relationships are explored, no desire unstated, nothing left unspoken. Slowly each player introduces himself or herself and literally steals the microphone to get our attention. We, it seems, are the judge and jury; their fate is in our hands. The bigger the impression they make on us (measured by cheers and applause), the better their chances of escape. Eventually they do get out, leaving us to determine how we can get out alive, how we can leave a “trace” behind worth noting.
It would be almost impossible to single out any of these performers as better than the others since they all end up doing everything. Usually, however, a single player or couple ends up defining the routine. I was very impressed by Xia Zhengqi who specialized in the Chinese arts. He is a national acrobatic champion and won the gold medal at the fourth National Acrobatic Competition in China. He has also performed in a Cirque Du Soleil show, Dralion.
This show is very special and I recommend it highly. Traces runs at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre until Feb. 20th.