Dystopia, Trauma and Grotesque Ballet: the Gut-Wrenching Darkness of Modern Circus
Three of Brisbane festival’s eight world premieres come from some of Australia’s most exciting companies – and their takes on circus couldn’t be more diverse.
It has all the tropes of contemporary dance: taut sprawled bodies; grey nondescript uniforms; a box, in which the cast is claustrophobically trapped inside; electronic music. There is even a running scene – in which the runners get nowhere.
If these devices sound familiar, that’s because they are: it’s been done before, (some might say done to death). Yet Circa’s En Masse, which had its world premiere at Brisbane festival last week, is not dance. It’s circus.
For years, circus was little more than popcorn entertainment: it was where you went, kids in tow, for tricks and clowns and a dusting of sequins. No more. Circus today – if this year’s festival is anything to go by – has a darker side.
In En Masse, tenor Robert Murray – dressed as an old, weary wayfarer – sings Schubert’s The Winter’s Journey, alongside a live pianist, the brilliant Tamara-Anna Cislowska, and an electronic score by Klara Lewis. The dystopian despair that creeps in is set up by an opening quote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”…
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