Left – David Coombs. Cover - Reuben Zalme & Vanessa McGregor. Photos – David Wyatt
In 2011 the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) celebrates 10 years as Australasia's premier training centre for contemporary circus. Beautifully Imperfect is the show created especially for the occasion, with third year students choroegraphed by a guest director, Rob Tannion, and joined by four performers from the Nanjing Acrobatic troup of China.
The result is a show of vivid beauty, almost surreal at times, an extensive, thoughtful journey through vulnerability and physicality, strength and alienation … Beautifully Imperfect is about many things you don’t expect to see in circus. Here the 'perfect bodies' of the performers are used to explore the tension inherent in our construct of beauty in a world where no-one can ever be beautiful enough.
The show extends itself across an array of performance genres: you get moments of experimental theatre, dance performance, of absurdist theatre, the big musical, even of Broadway. The unique approach of Rob Tannion, who works as a freelance choregrapher in Europe for everything from commercials, musicals, dance theatre to directing for Spain's leading dance company, brings an inclusive vision to this show. Beautifully Imperfect gives voice to its youthful performers with an occasionally melancholy, sometimes joyful, even mad sort of show, extensive and surprising. It varies in mood but is coloured in a cohesive palette, despite having to accommodate a large number of artists of a variety of skills and types.
There is some beautiful balancing in the form of Shoulder Ballet by Hua Yong and Bo Yang, vertical rope work, aerial feats, tumbling, lasso, the trapeze and plate spinning, juggling, even breakdancing but it is all performed in service to narrative. Audiences are not simply delivered a repertoire of breathtaking feats, rather they need to wait and savour the various talents as they come into play. This is circus on its own terms. Set design and music are outstanding. Occasionally the elements of spoken theatre seem obvious and repetitive, hammering home the message rather, but the actual effect is anchoring in terms of narrative. With such a lot going on, the show reminds itself, and us, of what its main concerns are.
Allowing each performer the opportunity to excel is hard with such a large cast (25) but, despite nerves and fluffs, Beautifully Imperfect is powerfully coherent and even the occasional fluff works in context. Unusual and somehow polished yet raw, Beautifully Imperfect does NICA proud.
National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) presents
Directed by Rob Tannion
Venue: NICA National Circus Centre | Green Street, Prahran
Dates: 13-20 April 2011
Tickets: Adult $27 | Concession $22 | Child U16 $18 | Family $72