. They hurl their bodies through the air, across the stage. They defy gravity on Chinese poles, climbing upwards, then zooming straight down, head first, without crashing their skulls on stage.
They jump through hoops - literally - piled two, four, six-high, above, below each other, or solo, astounding audiences.
They perform simpler stunts, too, in Montreal-based, Les 7 Doigts de la Main’s 90-minute, one-act production, “Traces,” appearing at the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre through Oct. 12.
Waiting for “Traces” to begin last Wednesday, (the show started 25 minutes late), the large tarp backdrop on stage turned the camera on the crowd in the theater lobby, beaming their images to the audience. Early on, troupe members introduce themselves individually, talking into a suspended microphone, swinging back and forth to each other. Some performers have foreign accents, making them difficult to understand, but their individual skills speak volumes, collectively drawing gasps, oohs, and aaaahs. Projected images and shadows enhance the action on stage. Later on, the troupe’s endearing baby and child photos are touching.
Created by circus wonders Shana Carroll, Gypsy Snider, and five others in 2006, “Traces” has appeared in 25 countries and 200 cities globally; won multiple awards; appeared on popular TV-program, “America’s Got Talent” twice; was on TIME’s top 10 list in 2011; and was performed at the Royal Variety Performance in London and at New York City’s Union Square Theater for a year.
The show’s theme is based on a group of urban youths awaiting an unknown, devastating catastrophe. They have created a makeshift bunker and spend what may be their last few hours of life, doing uplifting, happy, creative things together, while introducing themselves to us, and leaving traces of their existence. While they find ways to stay entertained and let off some of their youthful energy, danger is ever-present outside. Swirling spotlights, sirens, threatening sounds send them scattering in all directions, diving for cover, eventually running outside, into the aisles, and leaving the empty stage as their finale.
Besides jaw-dropping, high-risk acrobatics, precision stunts, gorgeous contemporary choreography, and a youthful, enthusiastic joie de vivre, the group performs simpler street stunts.
The urban shelter has a desk, a few chairs, a piano, two poles, and little else. One youth spends time drawing and writing at the desk, his images superimposed on the iant backdrop. Others toy at the piano, their range of talent running from fingering “Mary Had A Little Lamb” to playing contemporary and classical pieces.
Friendship, flirting and competition arise during their troubled times. A friendly game of basketball, a carefree, communal skateboarding and rollerskating segment binds them together; while teeterboard jumps send Fletcher Sanchez hurtling and tumbling sky high, landing on a thick mat. Sanchez, who started with the San Francisco Circus Centre, and boasts additional training with the Montreal circus group, performs classical, hip-hop and jazz dance, and specializes in Chinese pole, trampoline wall and teeterboard.
LJ (Kayln) Marles of London is a self-taught street and hip-hop dancer, who specializes in aerial straps; Lucas Boutin of France performs juggling and acrobatics; and Mathieu Cloutier, originally from Gaspe, Quebec, Canada, specializes in acrobatics, rollerblade and diabolo.
Although the entire troupe is spellbinding and fun to watch, 21-year-old Hou Kai, of Henan Province, China, is “Traces” spotlight stealer. He joined the China Acrobatic Troupe at age 8, and specializes in hoop diving, Chinese diabolo, tumbling, juggling hat, Chinese pole, dancing and martial arts.
Seated on a stuffed chair, Naomie Zimmermann-Pichon reads a book, tumbles backward, forward, walking with that chair on top of her, playfully making us laugh at her antics. In a stunning contemporary, acrobatic dance, she fends off romantic gestures from Renaldo Williams. They are a flawless team.
Naomie, who started training in gymnastics at age 5, specializes in hand-to-hand. Williams, who started training at age 12 in gymnastics, then acrobatics and circus, attended the national circus school of Montreal. They graduated together in 2013. He also specializes in hand-to-hand, and tours with Zimmermann-Pichon.Together, they’re poetry in motion.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90-minute performance, featuring Montreal-based circus icons, Les 7 Doigts de la Main, presented by Arts Emerson:The World on Stage through Oct. 12, at the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St., Boston. Showtimes: Oct. 8-11, at 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 12, at 2 p.m. Tickets: $25-$79; group,student,senior discounts. Visit www.artsemerson.org, e-mail email@example.com or call the Box Office at 617-824-8400