Les 7 doigts de la main – Séquence 8

A decade old this year, the Montreal collective Les 7 doigts de la main claims to try to create shows encouraging the audience to identify with the characters and themes on the stage. Their latest show, simply titled Séquence 8, succeeds in this—it is an intimate, funny, and touching show, simultaneously very familiar and utterly surreal and jaw-dropping.

The show opens with a cute and funny monologue that relaxes the scene and reminds us that we are experiencing something in real time, without commercials or FX. There is in fact a running theme of announcers, interviews, and voice-overs throughout the show, all very playful and self-conscious. At one point two of the acrobats even take a few moments to explain the deeper meanings of some of their pieces, and in the same breath mock the concept of there even being deeper meanings.

The stage is plain, with a desk to one side and a tall pole to the other. Though Chinese hoops, banquines, and Korean planks are involved, the show is, on the whole, very body-based, with few props and tools involved. The performances verge on modern dance, at some points, and the movements are often very sensual and sexy, with hints of aggression in some cases.  Fluid and controlled, the eight acrobats work together to form human ladders, crash-pads, and cages.

Often divvied up by moments of blackout and other effective uses of light, the different pieces in Séquence 8 were all highly emotive. Some are downright anguished, like the dance-tumble act which explores the sticky entanglement of our relationships through the cunning use of black tape. Some are intriguing and beautiful to watch, like the trapeze piece that seemed to suggest a struggle between the trapeze artist and the seven others. Some are simply impressive, and will have your eyebrows almost reaching your hairline, like the piece I like to call the Box Dance. Some are based on music the acrobats make together, onstage. Some are light-hearted and make the crowd laugh out loud, like the night’s “intermission”, which involves a question-and-answer period and displays just how young and silly the performers can be.

Fearless and flexible, the members of 7 Doigts throw themselves to the ground and into each other’s arms, making eye contact with the crowd and with each other. The displays of strength and balance are astounding, and the riskier acts had the crowd gasping, hands flying to cover gaping mouths. And no, no one was hurt.

With these eight young acrobats working together, there is sometimes so much talent and action on the stage at once that we didn’t know where to focus our attention. In this Séquence, the performers—and their choreographers–do a wonderful job of exploring the concept and reality of connections. One acrobat will pant into the mic in time with another’s movements, or something whispered in one acrobat’s ear will cause another several feet away to laugh—and the laughter turns almost immediately to sobs, a transition both effective and surprising. There are moments when they echo each others’ movements, when something happening on one end of the stage spurs a reaction from those on the other. It’s a poetic thing to see.

This show is overall a transporting experience. You will walk out of the theatre feeling maybe a little disappointed by the real world, in light of the beauty and extraordinary feats you just witnessed. At least, that’s how we felt. Highly recommended, 7 Doigts performs Séquence 8 every night at Tohu until the 15th of July, 2012!

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