I had the pleasure of seeing the Gandini Jugglers perform the Montreal Premiere of 4X4 Ephemeral Architectures at the Festival Completement Cirque here in Montreal. It is the second time I saw them this year (Win)! The first was their Meta Performance at the Rencontres Des Jonglages in Paris back in April, which also includes dancers, and is generally quite awesome.
First can we just say the obvious? Ballet dancers are so beautiful. There is nothing so graceful in the world as properly trained dancers. *swoon* The Gandini’s may have convinced me to like ballet more than juggling. Oops.
The show was a success! A full standing Ovation for the whole group on their first night – congrats everyone!
A longer comparison of the old version vs. now:
I saw this show 2 years ago at Rencontre des Jonglages, and now there is a sense that the whole piece radically changed and matured. Yet, looking back at the trailer, the key elements are all very much still there.
2 years ago, the jugglers bodies and the ballet dancers bodies moved so differently from one another. Jugglers movements were so angular, always breaking at the elbows and wrists when they are throwing. The ballet dancers are the opposite, so graceful and floaty, and their lines always fluid. The show back then was a contrast and comparison between two different types of athletes. The similarities were that the dancers or the objects appear to float through the air effortlessly. The difference was the jugglers use an object as a central point of focus, and the dancer use their body as the point of focus.
The narrative of the younger version was very much the story of separation between juggling and classical style dance, where the show moved very slowly into coming together and uniting.
Yet, now, their work has merged very solidly. It is now the similarities between jugglers and dancers all the way through the piece, showing very little of the differences. The two come together very quickly in their piece, showing off the ideas that both forms carry throughout. The jugglers dance form is visibly better than 2 years ago, the dancers are also visibly better jugglers. They have successfully merged the two forms in the bodies of those who perform the piece.
Although I love contemporary work like this, form for form, and ideas for ideas, the plot or story is not as present in this version than was in the last. Before, it was the story of the two ideas coming together. Now, it’s the dance between those ideas and how they have come together. Let’s be clear, I am quite impressed with how well they did so. They have totally merged these ideas and blurred all the lines between the forms. It’s so natural that the transformation disappears. Now, the message in this medium is left a bit more for the spectator to decipher.
Themes throughout the piece are chaos and calm, some meta references to the repetition in performance ritual and more references to the repetitive messages the world gives jugglers – which, as a juggling performer, is so satisfying to see played with. Theme and variation are used lightly throughout this piece, giving the audience a chance to decipher some of the patterns before it all goes to chaos of jugglers and dancers throwing, catching and singing?… White, yellow yellow, green, white, white, yellow yellow… Did I get that right?
Lastly, that juggling was incredible! There was one unintentional drop about 20 minutes in, that kind of woke me up and reminded me of the fact I was watching a juggling show, and that I had gotten so used to the flying & floating objects that I had forgotten how difficult things are! As a juggler I *really know* how difficult most of those patterns can be, but the effortlessness means the back bone is a theatrical piece, where the focus of this juggling act is *not* “look at how hard this is to do!”. The immersion of these two elements shows they are doing some technically difficult juggling nearly flawlessly, to the point you forget that they are juggling, and they can get on with the contemporary story telling.
It is really the juggling dream, right? Ok, ok. it’ my juggling dream, But the Gandini’s are doing it. Breaking ways for us to show us what’s possible. The work they create will forever impact many ideas about contemporary theatre shows in juggling form for us all.