I fear my powers of description are not up to the task of describing the delights of Cirque Éloize Hotel. This troupe from Quebec – which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – serves up a mix of breathtakingly beautiful and awe-inspiring acrobatics, juggling, clowning, dance, and music from a company of performers whose talents seem to have no limits.
The setting is the lobby of an Art Deco-ish hotel vaguely reminiscent of Wes Andersen’s Hotel Budapest. Into this lobby come people of many stripes, and they connect, interact, bounce off each other (both figuratively and literally), and fall in and out of love. Everything here is in motion: suitcases, telephones, doors, sofas – all slide or bounce or fly in and out of the space, sometimes animated by the performers, sometimes on their own accord; likewise, acrobatic props like juggling balls and hula hoops and Cyr Wheels and aerial ropes fall from the flies or swing in from the wings, to be used in an act and then suddenly disappear again, swallowed up by the commotion of ever-shifting activity. The stage picture is one of constant kinetic energy, like a pinball machine, as the entire company suddenly appears on stage for a chaotic scramble in transition from one acrobatic act to the next, or as areas of the set light up suddenly to reveal a performer swinging in the air, or balancing on another’s hands, or scrambling comically up, over, and around the diamond-shaped set.
As I suppose you’d expect from highly trained circus performer-athletes, the acrobatics defy the laws of gravity, physics, and human anatomy in ways that are gasp-worthy and sometimes a little terrifying. The acts are all incredible – and I use that word in its literal sense, as in: it’s hard to believe they are actually happening – and the range of skills each performer possesses makes them seem like a race of superhumans, as in: she can fly through the air with the greatest of ease AND play the Klezmer trumpet too? Among my favorite acts were Cory Marsh’s Cyr Wheel routine (which was anything but routine!), Philippe Dupuis’ completely insane juggling (at one point he had something like ten items in play; a quick search of the internet shows that this is pretty close to the limit of the number of objects a juggler can handle), and the final “surprise” set in which all of the members of the company performed a bunch of freakily difficult-looking tricks on a pair of vertical poles. Antonin Wicky and Jérémy Vitupier are the genial clowns of the show – Wicky has a very funny set in which he appears to bumble his way painfully across the set. The company includes two sets of beautifully matched “hand acrobatics” partners in Julius Bitterling/César Mispelon and Andrei Anissimov/Emma Rogers (in the latter pair, Rogers launches herself into the air to her partner as if she’s a flying bird). Rounding out the company are aerialists Una Bennett and the leggy, glamorous Tuedon Ariri, and the clowning acrobat Cooper Lee Smith. A highlight of the show is the music, which has a rich variety of texture and mood, and prominently features vocalist Sabrina Halde, who has a smoky, rich voice reminiscent of Adele.
You have another three chances to catch Cirque Éloize: Hotel at the Benedum – it closes on September 30. I’ll leave you with a video to whet your appetite: