'Humans' by Circa to shift perspective on circus arts and emotion

by Elizabeth Garrison | 6/28/19 2:00am

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Courtesy of Pedro Greig

Tonight, Saturday and Sunday “Humans” by Circa will be showing at the Moore Theater at the Hopkins Center. Circa is a world-renowned Australian circus troupe that pushes the boundaries of contemporary circus performance. According to Hop publicity coordinator Rebecca Bailey, Circa’s “Humans” promises to deliver awe-inspiring stunts, innovative choreography, and most importantly, compelling human emotion. 

According to the Hop’s program notes, “Humans” will explore the physical limitations of our bodies and how that relates to our emotions. 

Yaron Lifschitz, artistic director of Circa, said that the most moving performance comes from taking a simple task or movement and adding an obstacle. Rather than trying to look elegant or graceful, the acrobat is trying to accomplish a goal. Starting with this intensity and focus organically gives the final performance meaning and emotion. According to Lifschitz, this gives “Humans” an elusive quality that makes the show difficult to describe.

“‘Humans’ has been described as a love letter to our species, which I think is pretty true,” Lifschitz said. “It celebrates something very human, very present in us all: our ability to connect with each other.”

Circa’s performance of “Humans” is part of the SHIFT festival at the Hop, a collection of performances that are designed to challenge the way we think about the humanities. 

Bailey discussed Circa’s contribution to the SHIFT festival’s theme of humans and nature. Viewers can see this theme play out in “Humans” because of its focus on the human body, the laws of physics and how we can use our bodies to play with the laws of nature such as gravity, weight and lift, Bailey said. 

According to Bailey, one of the reasons the Hop decided to bring Circa to Hanover was to cater to the vibrant circus community in the Upper Valley. 

On Tuesday, Lifschitz taught a public master class for dancers and performers. The class challenged performers to construct a performance piece by projecting internal desires and motivation into external movement. 

Jessica Hill, a member of Big Teeth Performance Collective and the New England Center for Circus Arts, attended the master class to learn new choreographic techniques and said she was drawn to Circa for their focus on authenticity and the connection between people in their shows.

Another acrobat and member of Big Teeth Performance collective, Naomi Ullian, said she appreciated the opportunity to learn how circus arts were evolving abroad in the master class. 

“In the United States, contemporary circus or what they call ‘new circus’ is behind what is going on in Europe and Australia and other places, so it’s really nice when companies from abroad come here,” Ullian said. “There is a lot of money for dance in the United States but there is not a lot of money for circus arts, so it is slow to evolve and is not always seen as a legitimate high art form.” 

According to Ullian, while circus is not typically seen as an art form, it has tremendous power to evoke human emotion and deliver unfathomable spectacle. 

Lifschitz describes how Circa strives to expose audiences to the extraordinary. 

“I like working with Circus because it is very present and real, and that’s why I think it is worth making the trip to the theater for,” Lifschitz said. “It’s nice to stay home and watch Netflix, but when you get to the end of a twelve hour series, you hardly remember anything about the show. Whereas, if you sit and watch a 70-minute circus performance, that 70 minutes can completely change your life and give you an entirely new experience.”

After seeing “Humans” by Circa, audiences will never see circus or the human body in the same way, Bailey said.

Circa will be performing “Humans” at the Moore Theater at the Hopkins Center today and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.