Daring acrobatic feats and a youthful joie de vivre are the hallmarks of Traces, the enormously entertaining show from Canadian troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main/7 Fingers, now at the Union Square Theatre for a limited run.
A high level of excitement abounds from the moment these talented performers hit the stage in a series of high-flying kicks, jumps, spins, lifts, and tumbles. The routines, directed and choreographed by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, fuse circus with modern dance and a street-level sensibility that has the troupe fooling around with basketballs or skateboards one minute, and literally jumping through hoops or climbing poles the next.
There’s also an intimacy to the performance that partially results from the fact that the cast members — Mason Ames, Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau, Mathieu Cloutier, Bradley Henderson, Philippe Normand-Jenny, Xia Zhengqi, and Florian Zumkehr — introduce themselves to the audience early on and share personal details about themselves at various moments in the show.
An early highlight of Traces is a sensuously athletic dance between Ames and Benoit-Charbonneau that has the former lifting and twirling the latter around with a strength and agility that defies comprehension. Moreover, the routine has a complete emotional arc that shows the audience a relationship from flirtation to passion, disagreement, break-up, and reconciliation.
Among the other high points are Henderson spinning manically inside of a large metal hoop; Normand-Jenny being catapulted into the air via a see-saw mechanism and landing with precision onto a mattress; and Zumkehr doing an amazingly gymnastic sequence with first one chair and then a stack of them, followed immediately by him singing a folksy song and accompanying himself on guitar!
However, it’s the full group sequences that are often the most fun to watch as the performers themselves express such joy and camaraderie as they use each other’s bodies to propel themselves into the air, or demonstrate such trust in one another during stunts that appear to have a rather large danger factor.
Not everything works. A monologue that Ames delivers using clichéd phrases about time goes on too long. And while the various acts hang loosely together in a conceptual framework that has post-apocalyptic overtones, this idea is not fully fleshed out, or even always adhered to.
But these are mere quibbles, and easily forgiven in light of the sheer virtuosity demonstrated throughout the remainder of this 90-minute intermissionless evening — one that is likely to leave you oohing and ahhing like a child at the fearlessness of the performers and have you up on your feet cheering them at show’s end.