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Innovative dance circus thrills, stuns at UNC


Two acrobats prepare to execute a shoulder-lift during their Cirque Éloize performance at Memorial Hall. The company includes more than 100 artists.

Cirque Eloize has perfected the art of the near miss.
The contemporary dance circus’ new show “iD,” now showing at Memorial Hall, is a terrifyingly beautiful battle with gravity.

In the first 45 minutes, a woman balanced, flipped and cartwheeled upside down from one hand to the other of another performer; the team stacked chair after chair on top of each other while one of the gymnasts climbed, stacked and balanced on top of them; a bike chase flew through the stands, bouncing on one wheel up and down stairs.

The Montreal-based circus group set the stage with a plain, wooden cityscape. As the lights changed and the music moved, the set transformed into a city, a construction site and a collection of hidden doorways and walls.

“iD” is the story of two gangs fighting for control of a city. Though the plot is vague — decorated by the cast’s overactive grins and classic circus stunts — it ties each act together by pitting the two groups against each other.

The cast of gymnasts, break- and hip-hop dancers and a few contortionists somehow performed unimaginable feats in street clothes that looked both retro and futuristic.

Each character has an identity within the ensemble. An inline skater bounced around obstacles while a red-suited goof juggled tennis balls. The acts shift from intimate duets between opposing gang members and high-energy battles turned to fun.

One thing is for sure — the gangs in “iD” are even less intimidating than the singing, dancing and snapping gangs of “West Side Story,” to which the performance has been compared.

Each of the stories revolves around construction, either that of the city behind the characters or the relationships between them.

In one of the most compelling and breathtaking duets, a contortionist danced alongside a breakdancer, mirroring his movements and eventually melding her own with his.

By twisting her body at unimaginable angles and staring with a contorted passion at her partner, her character seemed like a romanticized spider, spinning in her prey.

Later, she appeared again, luring in another of the opposing gang with her animalistic movements and superhuman angles while the sounds of crickets and other bugs played subtly in the background.

But one of the most jaw-dropping moments came in the final act, when a gymnast fell from the top of the wall with a scream.

It seemed like a mistake for a second — until lights started flashing and he bounced back up with a laugh.

The next ten minutes involved each of the characters showing off their identities once again, jumping from a ledge, bouncing off the trampoline and landing in cut-out crevices.

Cirque Eloize has made an art out of stopping the heart of its audience — and it’s worth every breathless second.

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