From the New York Times, by the famous Ben Bratley
Among the abundant talents possessed by Les 7 Doigts de la Main — the philosophizing acrobats whose delightful new show “Séquence 8” runs through Sunday at City Center — is a gift for subverting metaphors. Many poetic comparisons will probably spring into your mind as you watch this sexy, witty Montreal-based team distort, upend and mock the laws of physics that keep us earthbound.
But before you’ve come up with a fancy mot juste or two, the troupe will have blocked the trope. Those two guys who use what looks like a slender seesaw to catapult each other somersaulting into the heavens?
Well, when they’ve finished this particular act, they start bickering pretentiously about whether what they’ve done is about life’s eternal quest for balance or a matter of listening to ghosts. As for that tall fellow who juggles boxes into fluid, eye-teasing towers, he announces — in a product-plugging, talk-show-style interview — that he’s written a book on the theory behind it all: “How To Live With the Boxes You’re Thinking Outside Of.”
You can’t take any of what this company (which worked on the Broadway revival of “Pippin” and the cabaret circus “Queen of the Night”) says too seriously. Its special art defies not only gravity but also words. Any spoken explanations here have an ironic spin that plays with our desire to put these confoundingly agile young things into, uh, boxes.
The most eloquent commentary they come up with can’t be found in a dictionary. And that occurs whenever a performer holds a microphone up to another who has just completed a taxing routine, and the only sound you hear is amplified gasping for air.
Breathless, wordless — that’s how you’re left by “Séquence 8,” which is directed and choreographed by Shana Carroll and Sébastien Soldevila. This internationally touring company, whose “Traces” was seen in New York in 2011, brings a deadpan cool to daredevil activities that make audiences sweat with vicarious fear.
Many of the acts on view here resemble those you’ve seen in circuses — either the traditional big-top kind or the nouveau spectacle practiced by Cirque du Soleil and its imitators. Les 7 Doigts (that’s French for “fingers,” and, just to confuse matters, there are eight performers this time) jump through hoops, levitate up poles, form ever-ascending pyramids and, but of course, sail through the air with the greatest of ease on trapezes.
What sets the Fingers (if I may be so familiar) apart is the relative plainness of their presentation and their insistence that there’s nothing exotic about them. They’re just ordinary folks in street clothes, hanging out on a naked stage (no nets!) and listening to a mixtape. They just happen to have really great, supremely bendable bodies and are able to fly.
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And I mean truly fly — the way you do in dreams — without the clunky technology that big Broadway shows require to make actors seem airborne. The Fingers are propelled into space by basic-looking launchpads like the Russian bar — a sort of springy balance beam — and the Korean plank, or teeterboard. Sometimes they achieve flight with nothing but their own elastic muscles, or through being thrown into the air by their teammates, who are there to catch one another, if need be.
Oh dear, I feel a metaphor coming on. Note that the troupe’s full name, Les 7 Doigts de la Main, translates as the seven fingers of the hand, which suggests both separate units and inextricable bondedness. And throughout all the astonishing acrobatics, we’re aware of both the sharp, expressive individuality of each team member and of their reliance on one another. (And here let me mention them all by name: Eric Bates, Ugo Dario, Colin Davis, Devin Henderson, Maxim Laurin, Camille Legris, Tristan Nielsen and Alexandra Royer.)
Reading the program biographies, I gather that there is at least one proper couple (or life partners, or whatever one says now) within the troupe. And the whole show is pervaded with the sense of the tensions, fruitful and frustrating, that come from being both a singular entity and part of a unit. (There’s a scene in which the performers are connected by a labyrinth of duct tape that doesn’t always stick.)
There’s another intimate relationship in play during “Séquence 8,” the one between the performers and their audience. Mr. Davis, our occasional M.C., describes that relationship as a dance. If that’s the case, Les 7 Doigts might be compared — and I know I said comparisons are useless — to gymnastic Fred Astaires, who allow us to be airborne Ginger Rogerses for one delirious night.