Gardening has always been a place of beauty and sanctuary for humanity. The ancient Persian word “walled garden” is the source of “paradise.” Epicurus promised that his philosophic gardens would help us find the good life. The suffering of humanity began only when man was exiled out of the Garden of Eden.
The circus troupe Compagnia Finzi Pasca presents its audience with Per Te (For You), an acrobatic memory garden. The title “you” refers to Julie Hamelin Finzi, who was one of the founders and creative directors of the company. She died last year. The production’s conceit is that an audience watches a rehearsal for a circus show while the company struggles to cope with the loss.
Julie believes that everyone should have an inner garden for shelter and to welcome loved ones. The metaphor of a garden is used to open the show and continues through the entire performance. The second act begins with a call to the African jungle. The cast imitates the calls of wild animals. Before the stage transforms into a garden, where spinning plates and flexible rods mimic a sea or flowers, it is a jungle invocation. The park bench is a recurring prop in the show.
The park bench is a common prop used in the show. Compagnia Finzi Pasca
An anthology literally means “a collection of flowers,” and that is exactly what this show is: a series of vibrant bouquets celebrating Julie’s life. An anthology is presented of Julie’s dreams, passions, and struggles with illness. This is an episodic narrative, not a continuous one.
A personal creation can come across as smug and self-indulgent by an audience that has never met the subject. Julie, as she emerges from the memories of the cast, is relatable and so full of life that it speaks to all. The “you” of the title also refers to “us,” which is the audience. This show is an act of kindness that aims to remind us all of our humanity in the face of a world that can be cold and unpredictable.
The quality of visuals is what ultimately determines whether a contemporary circus show succeeds or fails. We can see here the true strength of the company. This show is a fascinating exploration of the power of wind, along with images of the garden.
As we look out at the destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is encouraging to be reminded that air can create works of beauty. The wind and love are inseparable. In Dante’s vision of Hell, those who are given excessive lust will be trapped in a vortex. Relationships can be turbulent.
Wind machines are the unsung heroes of this show. They are arranged in a circular pattern and create a vortex at the center of the stage. This brings to life anything that is sucked up into their slipstreams. They transform scraps of paper into butterflies and confetti into a snowstorm in Montreal. Two bolts of fabric swirl and float above the stage. They are only guided by the cast members’ gentle poles. It’s sensual, fluid, and totally entrancing. You never know where the textiles will go or what shape they’ll take next.
Wind machines are unsung heroes. Compagnia Finzi Pasca
The acrobats’ deliberate athleticism is in stark contrast with the capriciousness and contingency that the fabric demonstrates. These are highly trained, highly sprung bodies that know exactly where they’re going to the millimeter. It is amazing to watch them twist, tumble, turn, and bend without being bound by the laws of physics.
They are Vitruvian men made real, trapped in spinning hoops with their arms spread out. We all aspire to be like these people. All of us like to think that we are able to fly. Even when dressed as medieval knights, they can still fly. The acrobats are driven by passion, not just by armor but also by love.
Acrobats in spinning hoops with their arms spread out are the real-life image of Vitruvian Man. Compagnia Finzi Pasca
Cirque contortionists are quick to remind us that these are not your normal bodies. As the audience watched the contortionist on stage disjoint himself, we were watching our fantasies disappear. It is not easy to somersault so easily. You have to become one with the bizarre.
The dialogue is less confident. Verbal clowning is prevalent, including a long scene that revolves around an absurdist version of poetry. Everyone has different tolerances for tomfoolery. This section is for those who enjoy the Shakespearean fools. It leaves me cold. The release of Stephen King’s It, a film version of the book this week, proves that clowns are much better at convincingly portraying serial killers.
We don’t have a word to describe a parent who has lost a child, but we can easily identify the different widths of noodles (capellini, spaghetti bucatini, fettuccine pappardelle, etc.). The show focuses on the paradox that we have names for over 1000 different types of pasta yet lack the same level of linguistic precision when discussing human tragedy.
Per Te is an artwork born out of grief and tenderness. It reminds us of our duty to leave vivid memories behind for those we love, no matter where the wind of fate takes us.