SOMOS is Spanish for “We are” and that is certainly our jumping off point. In this show comes six acrobats from Bodega, who left their home in order to realize their wildest dreams: to become circus artists. All of them have their own individual flair, but together they are more than the sum of their parts. “We are from here, and from there. We are individuals but also a collective. We are Colombian, French, Spanish, Italian, Syrian, Morrocan, English, ect. These are just labels. In reality, at our base, we are just humans in a world that never stops moving.” says Wilmer Marquez, a member of El Nucleo, when describing what SOMOS means to him.
This stage is simple and rectangular; shoes with laces tied together are left hanging from the lowered bar at the back of the stage. At times the lights will shine towards them and illuminate them, subtly giving us an image of boyishness, of coming of age, of restless youth. This was the only decoration on the stage, and it is all that is needed –– the perfect symbol to reflect and represent the show’s message of brotherhood and friendship.
One of the acrobats takes the stage. He is alone and the space is hazy. It catches the light. Suddenly something small is thrown at him and hits him on the back with a ‘whack’. That sounded like it hurt. The acrobat does nothing. A second later, many more of the small lumps come flying out of the fog and rain down on him. Whether they hit or miss, I am filled with a sense of sadness at this image of ‘the things that life throws at you’. Some of the small lumps hit the acrobat square in the head. Ouff.
Then, out of the haze, the five other performers barrel in! At once the atmosphere is transformed from one of gravity to playfulness. It’s every man for himself as they try to simultaneously land a hit and avoid being hit with chalk balls. They’re laughing, teasing, and rough-housing lifts spirits and lightens the mood. This is what characterizes the entire show. When the whole group is on stage, it’s impossible to feel bad. Your worries are whisked away. However, SOMOS doesn’t shy away from sharing stories of hardship through the images and atmosphere that they create; life is hard, but it’s also a party when you’re with your friends.
SOMOS is made up of a majority of acrobalancing acts, and alternates between play, party, and heaviness. Although these tricks are amazing, it’s the moments that break them up that really make the piece memorable. The boys are constantly showing off to each other and fighting for praise and attention. At one point, one of them enters slowly wearing, of all things, a tutu. The rest of them freeze when they see him, and then almost immediately start teasing; jumping into the air and trying their best to be elegant and dainty.
The tutu-wearer, who takes the leader’s role, commands them all to get into formation. What comes out of this is a ballet-hip-hip-latin fusion, with plenty of freaking and krumping from tutu-wearer. Dancing together, they remind me of one of those feel-good movies where in order to come up with a completely original idea, a group of street dancers need to overcome their prejudice towards ballet and set aside their differences in order to win the competition. Maybe they still come in second place, but they realize they didn’t need to win in order to get their real prize, which was their friendship all along.
Another really special moment completely outside of their acrobalance routines, was a small story told through shadow theatre. The other acrobats prop up the safety mats that line the floor, creating a white backdrop. A harsh spotlight against the performer standing in front of this newly created wall, allows him to tell his story with shadow images. Another recalling to childhood.
Although many traditional acrobalance acts feature people with two different body types; many times someone slightly smaller and slimmer to be lifted into the air, versus someone stockier and larger to provide for a strong foundation for tricks, the piece ignores that trope. Performers are interchangeable and take turns being the one lifted and the one lifting. This feeling of equality was truly the standout element of SOMOS. These are artists but they are also friends, like brothers, with complex relationships, and that show perfectly demonstrated that in every capacity.
El Nucleo presents
Performances: July 10 to 14, 2019
(2345 Rue Jarry E, Montréal, QC H1Z 4P3)
Box Office: 514-374-3522 | www.montrealcompletementcirque.com