TRACES by the Company, directed and choreographed by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider (the 7 Fingers). At Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge). To November 18. $35-$60. 416-872-1111. Rating: NNN
Sometimes feel you're jumping through hoops to accomplish something? That's nothing compared with what the five performers in Traces have to do.
The fast-paced dance/acrobatic production, presented by Montreal's the 7 Fingers , incorporates skateboards and basketballs and the work of a very fit quintet ( Héloïse Bourgeois , Francisco Cruz , Raphael Cruz , Brad Henderson and Will Underwood ). Miles removed from the polish of Cirque du Soleil, the design has an intentionally rough, inner-city edge.
Flipping, tossing each other around, launching themselves into space and up poles and balancing on each other's heads, arms and shoulders, the group at times seems to win the battle with gravity. They all play the piano as effortlessly as they perform circus-related gymnastics.
Some of the best segments are pas de deux, not just with human partners (Bourgeois and Underwood have a lyrical, sensual duet to a Ry Cooder tune), but also one in which Bourgeois's unlikely collaborator is an overstuffed armchair.
There's an incredible pole-climbing number to Radiohead's Talk Show Host, in which all five prove as agile as monkeys, and Henderson does some jaw-dropping work, under cross-hatched lighting, with a large spinning hoop.
Performing in close proximity to the audience, this company isn't afraid to return to a stunt until they get it right, even if it takes three tries. Hey, they seem to say, we're good, but we're still human.
The show could do without its frame, which uses the vague theme of a clock ticking toward an unknown future and the performers trying to leave their traces - hence the title - on the world and each other.
There's text here and there, too (some awkward poetry, riffs on the idea of time and Facebook-style bios), that isn't very effective, nor is a talky TV-show contest near the end.
But then the five conclude with that Chinese hoop-diving that makes limbo-bar contortions look simple, and you're won over again.