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A sinuous ‘S’ from Circa

Australian performance troupe part of Celebrity Series

Susan Saccoccia
Susan Saccoccia
A sinuous ‘S’ from Circa
Nathan Knowles and Bridie Hooper in Circa’s “S.” (Photo: Robert Torres)

A white square covered the floor on an otherwise dark stage as Circa, a performance troupe from Brisbane, Australia, began the second of its three shows last weekend at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre in Boston, presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston.

Lit by a tiny spotlight, company member Bridie Hooper slowly moved her body up and down to the recorded sound of deep, rhythmic breathing. She rose and fell in a spider-like movement, planted on her hands and feet, her torso bent backward in an arc.

That circular movement was echoed time and time again in increasingly elaborate and daring ways by the eight-member ensemble during its intermission-free, 85-minute performance of “S,” a production created by the troupe and its director, Yaron Lifschitz, which explores the evocative 19th letter of the alphabet.

During its last visit to the state, in 2012, Circa performed for both the Celebrity Series of Boston and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Founded in 2004 in Brisbane, a city on Australia’s northern coast with thriving physical theater and community circus scenes, Circa has performed in 39 countries with its virtuoso blend of poetic expressiveness and dance, theater, circus and acrobatic techniques.

All these skills were on display in Circa’s performance of “S,” which transforms extreme physical virtuosity into something more. Neither dance nor gymnastics, Circa practices an art that, through the drama and beauty of bodies in motion, captivates on its own terms. Among its delights is the spectacle of women and men performing as equals in strength, daring and physical prowess.

Author: Robert TorresMarty Evans, Nathan Boyle, Cecilia Martin and Bridie Hooper in Circa’s “S.”

On the Web

For more information about Circa’s “S,” visit: www.celebrityseries.org/circas/index.htm

On stage Saturday night were Caroline Baillon, Lisa Goldsworthy, Bridie Hooper and Cecilia Martin and their male colleagues Nathan Boyle, Marty Evans, Todd Kilby and Nathan Knowles.

Attired in costumes by Libby McDonnell — legless black leotards for the women and topless black pants for the men, the performers were accompanied by a recording of contemplative music by Kimmo Pohjonen, Samuli Kosminen and the Kronos Quartet, along with passages by other composers including Henry Purcell. Instead of sets, lighting by Jason Organ shaped shifts of scene in the production.

Conjuring the sinuous curves of the letter “S,” the men and women constantly rotated in spins and spirals and when arching backward, they rotated without end, tumbling into somersaults that seemed as effortless to them as taking a breath.

Like all letters of the alphabet, “S” is a line, but one that is pushed in and inverted on itself. At times, the performers evoked this original line, folding themselves into angular, origami-like figures, with triangles of light accenting their sculpted shapes. Or, seeming weightless, they would stand atop one another in vertical stacks of three, and further test their fragile balance by doing splits while balancing with a hand on another’s head.

Performing such feats of magic in solos, duos, trios and as a group, they rendered what seemed nearly impossible — or very, very hard to do — with apparent ease.

A series of scenes included a pause as, without music, the ensemble played around with what looked like practice stunts, grunting to each other and looking out at the audience for reactions, as if we were watching a rehearsal.

Props were few, but in another episode, the performers entered bearing glass bowls filled with water, lending a ceremonial air to the scene, which was accompanied by a slow, lyrical accordion passage. Before long, they were balancing the bowls on their heads, one doing so while standing atop two fellow performers.

In another vaguely ceremonial scene, Knowles held his body as straight as a canoe while his fellow performers bore him aloft as if they were carrying a funeral bier. Somehow, after

a series arcing folds and turns, he ended up intertwined with Hooper in an oval, suspended from ropes.

Goldsworthy performed a mesmerizing hoop solo, spinning up to six at a time. While rotating a single hoop, she kept moving her arms in and out of it, as if it were moving on its own. Spinning with blurring speed, the hoop looked like a soap bubble.

The performance ended as it began, on a darkened stage, with Hooper lifting and lowering her body in slow, spider-like movement, to the sound of deep breathing.