Circus: Beautifully Imperfect (NICA)
14th April, 2011
The National Institute of Circus Arts celebrates it’s 10 year anniversary with a powerful and moving show collaboration with China’s Nanjing Acrobats Troupe. Incredible choreography and costumes shine in this potent social commentary on ‘perfection’. Beautifully Imperfect explores our obsession with perfection and the quest for it; The perfect body, the prefect job, the perfect lover and the perfect life. While the performances are brilliant, the outlook of this rather brave and political show isn’t at all rose coloured. Far from it, the show depicts the way we distort, destroy and cannibalise ourselves and each other in our quest for perfection. Making social statements and commentary isn’t altogether unusual for NICA, as few understand better than them, the hard life of an artist. However this show is by far the most overt expression of such commentary that I’ve witnessed. It’s punchy, raw, blatantly political and dark in it’s realism. This show focuses more on movement, acting, performance and creating mood than perfect acrobatics. It’s much more like a contemporary dance-circus hybrid than what you’d usually expect from circus. Though some of the feats you’ll see will floor and astound you, on the whole, it’s not the tightest and most precise circus acts I’ve witnessed from the institution. It’s not beat per minute action, but symphony of highs and lows, bangs and silences. Director and choreographer Rob Tannion has outdone himself with brilliant, gorgeous and moving work. His direction of the students is remarkable, and he’s managed to turn circus performers into powerful actors and conduits of emotion.
The choreography is wonderful to behold. What the show lacks in tradition acrobatic perfection it makes up for with precision dance and movement that sweeps you away, and sometimes punches you in the face. The set for Beautifully Imperfect is flawless, sophisticated and very well considered. You’ll witness it seamlessly transform and warp in front of your eyes. It becomes a matrix that stands alone and at the same time beautifully fuses with the performers and the visions being painted. Definite wow factor. The costumes for me were another highlight. Classic suit and dress silhouettes are stripped, deconstructed, reconstructed and subverted in flesh tones and materials. The devil was in the details like exposed pockets which gave the outfits an inside out feel, which worked with the themes of being naked, exposed and falling apart in the search for perfection. The National Institute of Circus Arts keeps going from strength to strength with their shows each year. They may not all be perfect, but each time they put on a show, they manage to captivate their audience with their amazing talent, and consistently show incredible potential of what circus can be. It’s the collaborative nature of their shows that makes them seem so fresh and bold every time. It’s these collaborations with diverse international and local guest directors, to visiting trainers and collaborations with other companies and institutions like the Acrobat troupe from Nanjing, that keeps circus as an art form, and not an outdated tradition. Time and time again, NICA have redefined the possibilities of circus, making it fresh, exciting and full of wonder. This institution has helped make Melbourne the circus capital of Australia. Just experience one of their amazing shows, like beautifully imperfect, and you’ll soon see why.