photo by Alexandre Galliez

The best word I can think of to describe The 7 Fingers’ new show triptyque is magical. I know, I know, cheesy. But when a show can really make me feel, bring me into a zone where the rest of the audience fades away… I mean, that’s magic. The 7 Fingers return to Toronto for the 30th season of Canadian Stage, with a wonderfully unique performance. The Montreal-based company has joined with three choreographers, Marie Chouinard, Victor Quijada, and Marcos Morau to create a blend of contemporary circus and contemporary dance. Straddling both worlds myself, it is so wonderful to see them coming together; knowing that professional dancers are opening themselves to new experiences and developing trust with fellow artists to begin flying through the air, and to see circus performers honing their floor movement and presentation skills. triptyque certainly is an intimate type of circus, where the façade of fantasy makeup and costume drops away to reveal the raw human talent each one of these artists possess. All three acts in the performance, although entirely stand-alone, meld into an interesting thematic whole. Samuel Tétreault, director of The 7 Fingers expresses an interest with these three pieces in developing a balance between gravity and the human body, movement and stillness, and wakefulness and dreaming. These boundaries immediately make me think more of magic, as spirits and magic are found in these liminal planes, borders and boundaries, just like faeries poised at forks in the road and edges of forests.

Marie Chouinard’s “anne & samuel”

The opening images of this first piece are so breathtaking, the audience inhales and basks in the knowledge they are in for a wonderful evening of art and experience. For the first time I’ve seen on a mainstream stage, anne & samuel presents the use of Kinbaku, a Japanese style of artistic bondage. The curtain lifts and reveals a woman, trussed to a gently swinging pole, reminiscent of a hunter’s prize hanging and waiting to be consumed. This piece is so deliciously animalistic, arousing, and totally conceptually interesting. The dancers use hand stilts, and the experimentation of this extra appendage is fascinating. The additional pivot point allows for a change in the artists’ centres of gravity and oddly inviting qualities of movement. The passion and fight between these two people onstage was intriguing and satisfying, and I couldn’t wait for more.

Victor Quijada’s “variations 9.81”

I truly felt honoured and privileged to be able to watch this second act. The grace and strength of these artists in a hand balancing-meets-dance performance was so awe-inspiring and completely showed off their diversity and virtuosity. Honestly, I could watch these performers press into handstands in unison all day long. I was impressed at the level of choreography in balanced positions as well. In handstand, the hands mirror the feet, and learning to use the palms and fingers to give you feedback about balance and verticality is an interesting process. The hands of these artists must be both so strong and delicate to allow them the massive scope of movement they present whilst in handstand. The undulations and spinal articulation is incredible to see, and variations 9.81 absolutely informs the audience about the wonderful and vast world of hand balancing. However, I did get a little lost in this piece. In an act claiming to be about stillness and its relationship with movement, I found far too little of the former and too much of the latter. I did find there to be too much movement for movements’ sake. The most magical moments were always when there would be a shining beacon of stillness or a soloist bending and twisting in a narrowed field of light.

Marcos Morau’s “nocturnes” 

As soon as nocturnes began, I immediately thought “Ah, now THIS is what I came for”. The perfect mixture of talent, fantasy, absurdism and skill, nocturnes is the ideal framework for The 7 Fingers to show off what they can really do. This third act truly encapsulates what contemporary circus is, and what it can be. Phenomenal sets and minimalist costuming give the dancers almost a four-dimensional structure to play in, as time seems to be suspended, hanging on a thread like one of the artists themselves. Dreamlike or nightmarish may depend on your interpretation, and nocturnes does not disappoint. The physical capabilities of all the artists is so vast, and spans so many areas of circus skills. All of them can tumble, fly, dance, hand-balance, and so much more. The overall conception and direction of this piece, too, is so clear and effective, it feels a relief. Relaxing into the magic of it, I let nocturnes sweep me away, and I was glad. Like I said, magic.

The 7 Fingers is truly a company like no other. The artists cannot help expressing their own pure joy on stage, and there is nothing like seeing a face light up with elation as they sail through the air on a feather bed suspended 40 feet above a stage. Honesty is always something I can count on with this company, and I was not disappointed in this show. The moments of humour that bubbled to the surface were so clear, too, like little beads of effervescence. And, if you’re looking for a little magic, this is the show to see.