The stage is silent. (The stage is often silent.) A man waits. A second comes on and aggressively pushes him. They fight, circle and go at one another again. Company members enter each provoked to fight by another until the entire stage is filled with acrobatic wrestling. At last they all stand, panting as a group. Music most often consists of percussion. Only what’s necessary to see is lit. Acrobats appear to be wearing a mashup of flexible street clothes.
At first, they use no springboards. Pairs of men lock arms and hands propelling a third person up to the shoulders of a fourth. Two performers stand, one on the other’s shoulders with a third acrobat somersaulting on top, making a tower of three. The airborne artist flips backwards or forwards. Those on top do handstands and headstands. They land right-side-up, upside-down, on their stomachs or feet. (Most of the time.) One especially limber woman lands in a split. Those not directly involved toss one another around, mill, or execute in sync dance steps.
When springboards are brought on, flips increase, human towers rise. Acrobats descend in fluid, sliding fashion or head over heels. Occasionally percussion includes a tune. All too brief Jitterbug is a hoot. The large group moves across an empty stage as if a single organism. Focus is otherwise completely splintered. Square boards are utilized to raise a group of performers an additional level higher.
Only once during endless repetitions and lengthy filler does humor emerge with a particularly original configuration and visible expressions. The company lifts a circle of arm over arm men on a platform. Women step away. (This is an equal opportunity company. Women are not only flipped but support one another.) An acrobat ostensibly supposed to leap up, cannot, despite being reached for. Frustrated, he eventually climbs on, executing a headstand on another man’s head. Those on the platform slowly circle in a kind of Hora. Those holding the platform then do likewise. The supporters circle on their knees. They then turn out, holding the platform behind their necks, on upper backs. At last they lay down. Acrobats balanced on top remain vertical. (This formation is also skillfully executed without a platform.)
A parentheses of performers’ laughter sounds manic rather than funny. Nor does slapping one’s hip and whooping across the stage evoke humor. Though acrobats are graceful and skilled, the 70 minute program uses up ideas in 30 minutes. Most accompaniment could put one to sleep.
Photos by Christophe Raynaud de Lage
Lincoln Center Festival presents
Il N’est Pas Encore Minuit
Artistic Collaboration-Loic Touze, David Gubitch, Valentin Mussou, Emmanuel Daries
Acrobatic Collaboration- Nordine Allal
Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall