Oneiric stands out as one of the best NICA graduate showcases in memory. Directed by Canadian choreographer (and frequent circus collaborator) Edgar Zenedejas, the show is a true fusion of contemporary dance with circus skills.
Oneiric is one long movement exposition (with similarities to the works of Australian company CIRCA) in which it’s often impossible to extricate the circus from the other various formations of movement. With a 90-minute run time, it’s probably longer than it needs to be. But given the especially large cohort of 20, there’s a lot of individuality that needs time to play out within the group dynamic.
The format allows the students to demonstrate their extremely high skill without the repetitious format of solo act, one after the other. And Oneiric still has all the thrills of fabulous aerial and acrobatic displays, including hearty lashings of trapeze, cyr wheel, a clever duo Chinese pole routine and a fantastic strap quintet. All appear seemingly out of nowhere and then just as silkily re-absorb into the macro action.
While there are not star players, as such, everyone’s unique contributions play important roles within the abstract narrative. Excitingly, the performers execute both the athletic and emotive sides of the physical movements, both on floor and in lifts and larger ensembles, like trained dancers, rather than acrobats fumbling through transitional steps.
The fluid, consistent aesthetic means that a steady stream of complex contemporary dance layers seamlessly within and between the more overtly circus fare. On stage, multiple things are happening, but because the overall visuals are simple and clean within black, grey and white tones, it’s never too cluttered or chaotic. Even the set-ups of bulky apparati – the dismantling of a tightrope, the erection and then dismantling of a teether board – are subtle and built organically into the choreography.
Costumes by Angelica Rush are variations on black with hints of silver. Occasionally a colour – like spinning turquoise diabolos – pops out from the monochrome of Charles Alexander’s projections and Harrison Cope’s brooding lighting. Ian Moorhead’s soundtrack mixes instrumentations but doesn’t overpower. Oneiric’s singular vision of hue and atmosphere over such a long run time begs for a few more shades of theatrical dynamics. Yet, paradoxically, this commitment to said singularity is also surprisingly satisfying.
National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) presents
Venue: National Circus Centre, Prahran VIC
Dates: 8 – 17 June 2023