Circolombia: Urban

Continue Reading One of the most breathtaking of Circolombia’s acts is a ‘frontal perch’. A bare-chested man balances a huge hoop like a Celtic cross on just his forehead, occasionally using his arms for further support. With exquisite balance and considerable skill, a woman moves gracefully within the circle. It’s humbling to see their lives linked on the knife edge of a small metal tube. Urban also offers some manically brilliant routines as two feline female performers swing across the stage. There are jungle-type moves reminiscent of snakes and monkeys. Gangs cascade onto the stage, doing jumps and backflips. A more delicate sequence with two couples comes to an abrupt ending.

click for more Its aesthetic is self-consciously urban. Pumped-up with muscle, the men jockey for position. Or dominatrix style in the opening scene, women play with a blindfold, rope or whip. One performer struggles physically to escape from a large black tube, suggesting the trashy trap of urban decay. Others skip over a rope while doing press-ups or giving piggybacks.

The soundtrack includes live Latin rap, orchestral and choral bursts set to beats, and more ambient or mystical sounds. A backdrop of visuals adds shanty towns on fire and red fluffy clouds.

Circolombia comprises graduates of Circo Para Todos, which offers a demanding four-year training course to street children and young people. So the roots of Urban are genuine and topical, as riots spread nearer to home.

However, its vision left me oddly cold. The physical feats are genuinely and frighteningly hard. But the overtly tough aesthetic is overdone, almost phoney, infernal but incomplete. It’s uncomfortable to watch its commercial success.