Please forgive my calling this a theater review, since that description is about expedient categorization and not a description of the novel experience that is Traces.
For 90 minutes on the stage of Tennessee Performing Art’s Jackson Hall stage Tuesday spirited young performers from Montreal’s 7 Fingers troupe – Matthew Greenfield, Valérie Benoît-Charbonneau, Lucas Boutin (who incidentally turned 23 on Tuesday), Mathieu Cloutier, Bradley Henderson, LJ Marles and Philippe Normand-Jenny – provided an acrobatic circus like no other.
Traces, to use 7 Fingers’ own description, fuses classic acrobatics with such street forms as skateboard, basketball and parcours (defined by The Free Dictionary as a “sport or athletic activity in which the participant seeks to move quickly and fluidly through an area, often an urban locale, by surmounting obstacles such as walls and railings and leaping across open spaces, as in a stairwell or between buildings”). Company co-founders Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider are the directors-choreographers of the smooth-flowing no-intermission show.
If there’s anything that connects the multi-discipline performance – which has had a successful New York run in addition to tours here and abroad – into a very loose narrative it’s the question of what traces we may leave behind when we’re all gone (hence the title). We get names and personality traits from each performer as a microphone suspended from the flies of Jackson Hall swings back and forth, and there’s an overhead camera that gives us a perspective of the proceedings that Busby Berkeley would have loved.
From spins in a large metal Cyr Wheel and a pas de deux that seemingly defies gravity to vertical Chinese pole poses where physics seem forgotten and hurtles through rings that get progressively higher, the Traces troupe presents feats that allow us to enjoy the enthralling combination of athletic precision and artful grace (they provide some nice piano and guitar along the way as well). I won’t pick a favorite, but I will say that Benoît-Charbonneau’s interaction with a book and a recliner reminded me of my daughter (who accompanied me to the show), so perhaps that was the piece with which I most readily identified. (She and Marles at different points in the show offer work with aerial straps that’s mind-blowing.)
Kudos to Nol van Genuchten for his lighting design are in order too. His gobo light templates, combined with frontal lighting and projections, create patterns and effects add dramatic dimensions to the onstage action. The apocalyptic minimalism of Flavia Hevia’s set is a nice touch as well.
No, Traces is not theater, acrobatics, ballet or even a circus in the traditional sense. It takes elements from those disciplines, adds youthful energy and a fun-loving style and creates an entertaining world all its own. Go see it, and don’t think too much about it when you’re there – just enjoy the all-out efforts of some very gifted performers.
HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC presents Traces through Sunday (Feb. 24) at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall (505 Deaderick St.). Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Today and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturday; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Sunday. Tickets start at $15 and are on sale now by visiting www.tpac.org, calling (615) 782-4040, and visiting the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick Street, in downtown Nashville. For groups of 10 or more, call (615) 782-4060. For more information on Traces, please visit www.tracesusa.com or www.facebook.com/tracesusa.
*Photos by Michael Meseke ©2010 courtesy 7 Fingers and TPAC.