Aeros is a show that draws on the greatest source of gymnastic talent in the world, from the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, and is put together by choreographers Daniel Ezralow, David Parsons and Moses Pendleton in collaboration with STOMP creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. The result is a performance spectacular that uses twenty gymnasts, male and female, in linked ensemble pieces, set to rhythmic contemporary sounds and using lighting and video effects.
The reason we have not seen anything like this before is that we are used to watching Olympic gymnastics which are categorised as either ‘artistic’ or ‘rhythmic’ gymnastics. A third category of ‘aerobic’ gymnastics, which specialises in these aerial displays, is what is used in Aeros. This is still not accepted as an Olympic sport.
Although some of the advertising suggests this show is a crossover between gymnastics and dance, this is far from dance as we know it. There is no emotion, except perhaps the joy in motion (and certainly the joy felt by the beholder) and no individuality in the dancers. It is a team effort that relies on precision timing and group trust. The sight of twenty dancers tumbling and cartwheeling and flipping across the stage like a shoal of fish, as they do in the opening and closing numbers Blast On and Blast Off, is exhilarating and astonishing. The addition of visual effects, like the screen of waves in Minitramps, that gives the illusion of the performers diving through waves, heightens the spectacle. This is the only scene in which (hidden) trampolines are used, although this is an important element of aerobic gymnastics.
The troupe splits into smaller ensembles for many of the routines. Some of the more entertaining, such as Table and Mushrooms were performed by male groups who were choreographed to highlight male competitiveness. This was fun, but why were the men singled out? There was some stereotyping here that could have been approached with a little more imagination.
It is strange to watch the equivalent of a ‘pas de deux’ in dance in which the male and female do not seem to interact emotionally and are not trying to express something. Here it is pure physicality. This approach takes some getting used to. The focus of the whole show is on the human body and its potential. Aeros is a celebration of the strength, agility and precision of the body. Several of the numbers invite us to look at it in novel ways: as a machine, in Machine, or as a foreign body, as in Dresses and Handstands, which both use the inverted body to make us see it with a new perspective.
Most of the soundtrack is driving rhythmic music, often electronic mixed with percussion and African or Asian sounds, but one scene Flick Flack makes a dramatic use of silence. We hear the thud of the performers’ hands and feet as they impact with the stage. This has the stamp of STOMP on it. It gives us a sense of the weight of the body, the effort involved in resisting gravity. This is so unlike ballet, where bodies float and reach up and appear almost weightless.
A significant percentage of the audience at Aeros were children – presumably budding gymnasts or dancers. The show has been put together as entertainment that is accessible to anyone, not just the dance or sports literate. It takes us on a journey that dazzles and delights us, while introducing us to a new language of movement through the collaboration of world-class choreographers and champion gymnasts. The result is a seamless performance in which no one creator or performer stands out, but the whole is a miracle.
the Arts Centre presents
Venue: the Arts Centre, Hamer Hall | St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Dates: Jan 22 - 26
Times: 7.30pm; Matinees Wed 23 & Sat 26 Jan @ 2.00pm
Tickets: $79.00 - $34.00. Family tickets $146 - $148
Duration: 1 hour, 15 mins
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 or www.theartscentre.net.au