The press release recommends that you “forget everything you know about circus…”. Well, since the rise of Cirque du Soleil over the past two decades, there has been no end of imitators declaring reclamations of the form. So are we to forget everything we know about circus in a ringmaster, caged animals, Zippo’s way or in a Cirque way?
While Circolombia’s “Urban” undoubtedly owes a debt to Cirque, it can rightly claim to have moved the form on. There are some familiar elements – aerial acrobatics, cracking whips, snaking ribbons, lassoing jump ropes, towers of tumbling and brawn in abundance – but plenty of unique feats as well.
A woman’s body spinning as the spokes of a wheel balanced on the forehead of a single man is one of the most astonishing – that had even my far more expert companion, an executive at Sadler’s Wells, exclaiming “I’ve never seen that before!”
The explosive set pieces, played out as gang brawls, are given extra edge by a thumping Latin-American hip-hop soundtrack, accompanied vocally by the ten-strong company (eight men and two women with Herculean strength on the day I attended), and a video backdrop showing streets and faces from the Colombian slums from which they hail.
And it’s not just a thematic device: these young people really do hail from the slums. They are the crème de la crème of Colombia’s Circo Para Todos (Circus For All), the world’s first professional circus school for disadvantaged youth. A worthy cause that creates a breathtaking effect.