January may be a dreary month for some, but for circus, puppetry, physical theatre lovers, it’s golden. London International Mime Festival is in full swing for the 39th time. Following co-artistic director, Joseph Seelig’s addition to the New Years’ Honours list this year, one can only imagine that next year’s 40th bash is going to be something outstanding.
This year’s highlight for me was Gandini Juggling’s spectacular new show, 4X4. Integrating 4 ballet dancers amid the patterns of the 4 jugglers, and set to a new live score composed by Nimrod Borenstein, the show is densely packed with complexity in every conceivable way- the movement, the manipulation, the 200 lighting cues, the order of the props etc etc. It would have been so easy for the piece, given it’s architectural beauty, to take itself rather seriously- but on the contrary, 4X4 is full of wit and silliness. I am sure that it will be a sophisticated introduction of circus to ballet-lovers across the world for many years to come.
Another highlight for me has been Plexus- a piece directed by Aurelien Bory for Kaori Ito- a wonderful Japanese dancer who has been part of the last 3 of James Thierrée’s shows. A dense forest of 5800 strong but stretchy strings join the floor and ceiling, creating a new monochrome and much more arduous world for Ito to inhabit.
Curiously, in the first show I saw Kaori in, Au Revoir Parapluie, there were many ropes hanging from the ceiling. Although I didn’t realise that I had seen Kaori perform before, and although Plexus was much more emotionally removed than Thierrée’s piece; this image immediately came to mind when watching her this week.
Another, rather surreal highlight was Oktobre. It features Yann Frisch, whose magic piece I had seen on film a few years ago (below). Alongside acrobat, Jonathan Frau and aerialist, Eva Ordonez-Benedetto, the trio create an absurd world of authority and nonsense. Highlights include Eva’s stunning static trapeze piece, performed slowly, in silence; and Pauline Dau’s late and rather unexpected entrance to the show.
Outside the Mime Festival, I was delighted to see a former youth-circus student from Jacksons Lane Youth Circus, Mimosa, perform in her first major show this month- Orfeo, at the Roundhouse. Mimbre’s Lina Johansson was the circus choreographer for the opera, which seemed a great fit with Mimosa’s now awesome skills as an acrobalance base. 3 of Mimbre’s youth group were also in the piece, so I know I wasn’t the only proud acro-mother in the audience that night!