We were lucky enough to arrive here in time for the annual end-of-year shows of the Ecole Nationale de Cirque. ENC is the creme-de-la-creme of circus schools, and their end-of-year show primarily features the 3rd-year, graduating students, though the 1st- and 2nd-years have supporting roles. There are two entirely separate productions: This year's shows are Pomme Grenade and Messa.
I saw Pomme Grenade first, this afternoon, with the children. I am so glad I brought them to this one, and not the other. Pomme Grenade was a really fun show. The director kept things upbeat, moving, and colorful throughout. The opening scene was just a joy, people moving through space, with acrobatic vignettes emerging, and disappearing, fluidly. It was a show of constant surprises, as acrobats dropped down from the ceiling and popped out of trap doors.
The featured acts in Pomme Grenade left nothing to be desired. The elegant handbalancer; the beautiful hammock choreography; the Korean plank (new to me, I'd never seen this rockin' skill before); the masterful cigar boxes; the lyra with its exquisite final sequences on the upper rope. I thoroughly enjoyed the hoop-diving, the amazing trampoline tricks, and the rotating pole act. (what on earth was that?) Overall, everything I'd hoped for in an ENC show.
Then, this evening, Greg and I went to see Messa. First off, thank goodness I didn't bring the children to this one, with its bizarre theme (religious cults?), dark and scary lighting and sound effects, and long bits of dullness. It might have turned them off modern circus for good. Even I had so much trouble with the uncomfortable directorial choices, it was hard to see through to the artists. ....Everywhere that Pomme Grenade had beautiful acrobatic transitions, Messa had people acting like lunatics. Use of TOHU's extraordinary space was limited. Costumes were uninspired, lighting was bleak and depressing.
Of course it had its moments. The aerial sequence, with the entire cast suspended on aerial equipment, filling the stage, was a moment of true beauty. The diaboloist was great, the straps guy fantastic, the Roue Cyr girl mesmerizing. The comic lyra act was a welcome chance to exhale and laugh. I think that despite their crazy director, there was some real talent in the cast.
I haven't mentioned how happy we are to visit our young friend, Kyle Driggs, who is a 1st-year student at ENC this year. He took part in the pre-show "animation" for Pomme Grenade, and even among these elites, stood out as exceptional. Kyle is a gifted juggler from the Philadelphia area, who made PSCA his home for the year or two prior to ENC. We gave him as much support as we could there, and watched his discipline and performance skills evolve. We were thrilled to send him on to Montreal, where he could really flourish. He's promised me a tour of ENC soon, so more blogging to come on that.
Back at home - Greg has finally arrived, and spent his first hour here rearranging all of the apartment furniture, as expected. Now we can relax and sort out some kind of routine for ourselves here!