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Traveling circus: ArtsEmerson presents ‘Passengers’ by Montreal-based troupe

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Traveling circus: ArtsEmerson presents ‘Passengers’ by Montreal-based troupe

ArtsEmerson opens its 10th anniversary season with the rhythmic acrobatics and breathtaking stunts of “Passengers” by the Montreal-based contemporary circus troupe 7 Fingers. A blend of circus tricks, theater, illusion, music and dance, the performance brings an intellectual lens to the style of entertainment popularized by Cirque du Soleil.

“Passengers” focuses on themes related to travel, particularly train travel. The troupe explores reasons why people travel — to get away from something or to get to something — and feelings of not belonging and of trying to blend into new surroundings.

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In a stunning piece showcasing performer Sereno Aguilar Izzo, he discusses why Mexican immigrants crossing the American border dress their best for the journey. While riding on a train filled with other, more at-ease passengers, Izzo begins playing with a ball, which unfolds into a showcase of his juggling skills. His athletic movements are reminiscent of the kicks and blocks of a soccer game, a sport with immense cultural importance in Central and Latin American countries. It’s as though Izzo’s character is using his soccer techniques to calm himself on the journey to a strange new country.

At other times the train journey represents the twists, turns and lack of control experienced in life. A short stop that jerks the passengers abruptly stands in for a life cut short; a rude fellow passenger mimics the hurdles people face on a daily basis.

The show, which runs through Oct. 13, is the sixth production by 7 Fingers that ArtsEmerson has hosted. “Passengers” premiered in November 2018 in Montreal and has traveled to Russia, France, Scotland, Germany and other countries since then. The ArtsEmerson production kicks off its U.S. tour.

“The design of this show is singular and gorgeous,” says ArtsEmerson Artistic Director David Dower. “The live music is infectious. The skills,
of course, are jaw-dropping, and once again there are elements of performance that we’ve never seen in a contemporary circus show. And, as always, the cast is so appealing you are cheering for them from the opening moments.”

Viewers can attend “Passengers” merely to enjoy the spectacle of tight-wire walking, trapeze acrobatics, hula-hoop dance routines, heart-stopping Chinese pole drops and unfathomable physical contortions. Or they can go to immerse themselves in the cerebral, and at times dark, narratives that live within each performance. 7 Fingers achieves what most contemporary circus acts can only dream of — the fusion of mass entertainment and intellectual exploration. 

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