The essential measure of a good cirque production is how many times the audience gasps. And last night, at the first performance of Cirque Éloize's iD at the Arsht Center, there were four such audible gasps. The first came about 15 minutes in, when one of the b-boy performers started pole dancing.
Wait, it's not what you think. Although, the bared torso of Fletcher Sanchez may have seduced some audience members, this isn't the kind of vertical play you'd find at King of Diamonds. This was Chinese pole-dancing, in which he and his 8-pack abs pop-and-locked up and down the pole. At one point, he slid down the pole stopping inches before his mug hit the hard stage.
Despite a juggling bit and a man on a tiny bicycle, iD is no big-top
circus. It's more a '90s-era hip-hop West Side Story. A cast of 16
performers clash in a futuristic city using choreographed stunts to
seduce or fight each other, sometimes both.
The set is an urban
cityscape with moving doors and blocks, on which a series of kinetic
visuals are projected. The performers frequently pop their heads out of
windows, waving and smiling like it's some episode of Laugh In and
frankly, we wish they wouldn't.
But back to the gasps. After some artful rollerblading capoeira, a BMX
biker challenges a man on inline skates. Both shoot down off the stage
and down the aisle with such spontaneity, the audience cringes in fright.
And when another performer stacks wooden chairs 30 feet high and
attempts a headstand, the crowd cries out in relief when he finally
executes his inverted pose.
The fourth incident that inspired a gasp is the one that continues to
play out in our head the morning after. After some playful backbends
and stretches, a female performer crab walks around her own head. Take a
second to really visualize what that would look like. It was
Exorcist-level creepy and we're betting that her body is filled with
Twizzlers instead of bones.
Actually, the contortionist, Emi Vauthy was a highlight of the show.
Whether she was getting bendy or perched air on aerial silk, her
presence and skill commanded attention. In one of the best examples of
how the projections, set, and live action could work together, Vauthy
climbed the set and entered one of the openings while a black hole
swirled around her.
Which is to say that very few of the other projections really added much to the show. In general, they made it feel like you're watching a
video game and can't find the controller to make Mario jump on that box
over there. We've seen better integration of performance and video at
Miami Made Weekend with Jillian Mayer's Mrs. Ms.
Some of the projections even seemed like screensavers from the early
days of computing. In fact, iD might have been vacuum-sealed in the
'90s and plopped down in 2011 without any sense of irony. From the
street fashion -- colorful dreads piled high in a ponytail a la N*Sync's
Chris Kirkpatrick -- to the dancing that evoked In Living Color's Fly
Girls. Then there's the music, which included a rip of Kris
Kross's "Jump, Jump!." The rest was more Nintendo than nightclub,
although it did remind us of the olden days of raves when things were
described as high N-R-G.
There's no arguing that the stunts were amazing, but an updated
soundtrack would have made the two-hour "Look what I can do!" showcase
much more palatable. For example, Mandy Rydman took to the aerial hoop to
a track that sounded akin to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We were able to be
hypnotized by her swinging and hanging like a playful nightingale
without having our brain melted by bad '90s techno.
All of this is a very long-winded way of answering: Is iD worth the cost
of admission? Yes, yes it is. Most of the stunts are amazing and the
TrampoWall finale is joy turned into movement. And considering that the
'90s are being revived as we type, perhaps you won't be as turned off at
the melodic invite to jump, jump like it's 1992.
Cirque Éloize iD runs through September 4 at the Arsht Center's
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Ziff Ballet Opera House (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Tickets cost $25
to $80. Call 305-949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org.
Enter to win two free tickets here for the August 4 performance.