Theater Review: CIRCOLOMBIA: ACÉLÉRÉ (The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier)

by Lawrence Bommer on October 28, 2018

in Dance,Theater-Chicago,Tours


Three rings do not make a circus, any more than “two boards and a passion” make a play. Sometimes all you need is fifteen performers for sixty power-packed minutes. That’s the fantastic formula working in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s all-purpose Yard space on Navy Pier. Making its North American debut as the culminating event of the second annual Destinos – Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, Circolombia recalls the percussive romp Stomp! with its free-style, semi-improvisational, street-wise gusto. Titled Acéléré, this is heavy-duty make-believe from the country of Colombia.

What sets this touring “circus party” apart from the old Ringling Brothers spectacles, or even Cirque du Soleil’s gorgeous glitz, is the pointed simplicity of it all. The aerialists, contortionists and acrobats are clad in unconfining gray street clothes, no rainbow costumes with spangles and sequins.

More family than ensemble, this import from one sister city to another — Bogota (and Medellin) to Chicago — features diverse athletes, graduates of the country’s national circus school. (It’s interesting that it takes place in Navy Pier’s former Skyline Stage, which for many summers hosted China’s always changing Cirque Shanghai. Lake Michigan has seen it all…)

These smiling young troupers practically dance their way through non-stop acts, their feats fueled by a pulsating score of salsa, hip hop, drum and bass, electro-cumbia, and a native style called Vallenato. It’s perpetual motion harnessed to irrepressible derring-do.

The seamless action has the artists performing leaps and triple somersaults on the teeter board and Russian balance bar. They erect human pyramids or scurry across a low-set rope trapeze. They do handstands and handwalks, play on perches, dangle and spin from a rope in full “cloudswing,” and fly above or cavort below. You see how much they trust each other when one woman’s entire body dangles high above the netless stage from the jaws of her partner’s iron mouth.

No question, for all the palpable delight they take in the stunts they perform, these acrobatics, shaped by director Felicity Simpson, exude skill, nerve, and strength. Coached by Ryan Wilmott and choreographed by Carlos Neto, the songs — performed by Juliana Valentina, Toro Valesquez, and Diana Particia Vargas Montoya — connect the events of this extravaganza into a high-energy tour-de-force.

So it hardly matters that the costumes are gray when everything else is multi-colored magic.

photos by Roberto Ricciuti

Circolombia: Acéléré
presented by Chicago Shakespeare
The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare
800 E. Grand Avenue on Navy Pier
ends on November 4, 2018
for tickets, call 312.595.5600 or visit Chicago Shakes

for more Chicago shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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