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March 1, 2018

Le Vorris & Vox Razzles and Dazzles at Cirque du Burlesque


Estelle Higgins / The Chicago Maroon

Last week, the Le Vorris & Vox Circus presented their winter show, titled “Cirque du Burlesque.” Directed by trapeze artist and fourth-year Leah Ochroch, the show comprised a series of performances on the ground and in the air by performers both familiar and new to circus. Viewers were entertained and thrilled by group acrobatics, aerial silks, and more acts choreographed to a dynamic soundtrack that included pop music, ominous electronica, and songs from the musical Chicago.

“Cirque du Burlesque” took place in the Logan Center, where the multidisciplinary RSO hosts weekly open gyms for practicing skills, rehearsing for shows, and teaching classes in various circus arts. The performances, which took place Wednesday through Friday night, were introduced by fourth-year Peyton Walker, a charismatic and humorous MC who wore a magenta robe that shone under the stage lights. Bantering with the audience while equipment was hoisted away or set up, she provided a comic relief that made the show more coherent despite the lapses between the different performances.

The first of these performances was a group acrobatic act that had premiered at Lascivious Ball in January. Choreographed to the Backstreet Boy’s “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” the act involved about a dozen different members performing various lifts and stunts. With synchronized moves and swift costume changes (or rather, removals), the act could have passed as a high-budget ’90s music video. Contrastingly, the concluding act of the evening, also an acrobatic one, was a noticeably more theatrical homage to “Cell Block Tango” from the musical Chicago. In the act, the “six merry murderesses of the Cook County jail” narrated their convictions in a dance infused with sass, flips, acrobalance, and just the right amount of melodrama. A third partner-acro act was performed by fourth-year Daniel Heins and graduate student Sanja Miklin, who presented a rapid but calculated series of moves in a fiery, kinetic, and undeniably sexy adagio. The performers’ ability to engage in partner-acro, often involving minimal clothing and intimate positions, confirmed the strength of their partnership and how comfortable they are as an ensemble.

Just before a brief intermission, six performers showed off their adroitness in staff spinning and glow poi, a type of performance in which glowing weights are spun to create various geometrical shapes. Choreographed by fourth-year Cindy Du, the act was magical to say the least. Costumes and makeup gave performers the impression of druids or fairies, and they seemed to summon spirits and open vortices to ethereal dimensions as they took turns carving the darkness with ephemeral streaks of violet light. Like some other acts, this one was not without its mishaps, but they were minor and did not detract from the show’s air of wonder.

The following segments involved little contact with the ground, as solo acts were performed on the aerial silks. In one, the hanging fabric seemed like a scarlet serpent slithering and contorting to a silk charmer’s commands. In another act, the silks were tied in a knot and used as a sling, on which the aerialist Hilary K gracefully coordinated her drops with the beat of the accompanying song. Other parts of the show saw group silk acts, one of which was inspired by Chicago’s “Razzle Dazzle.” Choreographed by fourth-year Cecilia June Boyers, the act had the audience snapping along.

However, the silks were not the only aerial apparatus used in “Cirque du Burlesque.” Ochroch performed on the trapeze in an elegantly mournful ode to Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” and Walker took a break from MC-ing to perform twice on the lyra (or aerial hoop), once solo and another time with third-year Jake Usadi. Their quick contortions and nuanced movements complemented the upbeat, palpitating tempo of the music.

Toward the end came a performance in the Japanese art of shibari rigging. Dressed in a flowing floral dress, the performer used rope to tie knots in precise and captivating patterns around her hips and legs, ending her bit with a particularly meticulous technique known as futomomo which the hostess aptly described as “entrancing and haunting.”

The show, introduced as one in which the performers “bare all” for the audience, was boldly lascivious in its exploration of the burlesque. Most of the performers’ choreography, apparatuses, and even choice of costumes were deliberately sexy. This theme, alongside the lack of storyline structuring the show, gave the performers more creative freedom than before.

The members of Le Vorris & Vox Circus certainly embraced this freedom, and their joy was palpable. Both a platform for practice and a display of dexterity, “Cirque du Burlesque” enamored every audience member, leaving them feeling light-hearted with entertainment or starry-eyed with inspiration.

Le Vorris & Vox Circus holds free open gyms in Logan 701 on Mondays and Fridays from 6–10 p.m., and on Sundays from 10–4 p.m.

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