Entertainment » Theatre

Vaulting Off the Walls with Cirque Éloize’s ’iD’

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Dec 26, 2012

The Montreal-based acrobatic dance troupe Cirque Éloize is literally vaulting off the walls via the trampowall, part of the unique design apparatus featured in their current show "iD" (pronounced EYE-dee). Éloize's battalion of dance-acrobats careens into Philly this week, if you are looking for a theater evening without a Nutcracker or snowflake in sight.

"iD" is the latest production of artistic director Jeannot Painchaud who began as a street performer juggler, acrobat and dancer who now creates multi-media circus- arts extravaganzas.

The show's choreography fuses various hip-hop, break-dance idioms and is scored to a rock, electronic and "poetic" soundtrack. The acrobatic disciples include juggling, contortion, in-line skating, stilts, Cyr wheel, hand balancing, straps, bike trial, Chinese pole, aerial silks and the trampowall vaults.

Painchaud wanted to create what he describes as a "surreal futuristic megalopolis." To achieve this vision, the director collaborated with illustrator and visual designer Robert Massicotte who specializes in hi-tech, high-energy shows. Massicotte spoke by phone to EDGE about "iD" from Montreal last week.

"We started 'iD' in 2010 and have been to Europe and US, Canada," he explained.

"I’m with them on tour when we make any changes. For instance, when we were in Korea, I was there to refine things. After that when we were back in Montreal, I made several more changes. But, now the show is pretty much running by itself."

Massicotte said that because of the extensive touring, many of the set concepts are achieved using film and video projections. Six projectors are used to create the show’s dimensional film inlay, which Massicotte describes as "a strange city - a place to explore identity of its residents and incorporate its buildings and street art. Because I am an illustrator, I worked with Jeannot from the beginning on the designs. He came to me with the idea to create something that uses the aesthetics of a science fiction comic book, which was something that I loved already.

"I designed the set and co-designed the video content," Massicotte continued. "The set actually is a giant apparatus for the acrobats. The story takes place in a city, so the buildings change and the landscapes change. The projections are done on multiple panels. The animated effects are very realistic sometimes, you see tableaux of shadows and clouds and other backgrounds."

The result is a visual environment in which the pieces flow together.

"When you mix different media, it makes it fluid with choreography and the visual tableaux."

One issue cropped up when Massicotte realized the potential visual hazards for the performers between the projections and the stage lights. "So we went very slowly in mapping it out. After they got used to it, it was ok. It looks more dangerous than it actually is. The integration of the video works very well. I like to work with acrobatics and this at a very high level. We have young, good acrobats and dancers; the level of energy is so strong and they transmit that to the spectators. It’s very hard to stay in your seat with this cast."

"iD" runs Dec. 26-30, 2012 for eight performances at the Merriam Theatre; Tickets range from $25 to $65, call 215-893-1999 or check online kimmelcenter.org

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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