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AUDIENCE REVIEW: "Spring" is Fluid yet Precise, Grey yet Full of Colour: A Collaboration between Gandini Juggling & Alexander Whitley Company
Gandini Juggling, Alexander Whitley Company
Streamed Jan 8, 2021
A man enters the stage in loose grey pants, a grey tank and black socks. He stands centre stage and says “I will now introduce the beginning.” He pauses, then announces “The beginning!” A line of jugglers on the right side of the stage, and a lone juggler on the left, toss rings and count in whispers while a dancer moves through the middle space. The lights flash on suddenly, then off again as a spotlight falls on the dancer and solo juggler. They come together to pass the rings back and forth while linking their limbs in a fluid duet.
This is how Spring begins. A collaboration between Gandini Juggling and contemporary choreographer Alexander Whitley, Spring mixes the two disciplines into one hypnotic dreamscape over a ragged electronic score by Gabriel Prokofiev. Moments without music are sprinkled in, filled with whispered chants and the sounds of objects coming into contact with each other.
The performers juggle white balls, clubs, and rings to a staccato rhythm, their movements fluid against the music. There is no difference between the dancers and circus artists, they all move together, weaving in and out of the space as seamlessly as the rings fly through the air.
Their shadows appear and disappear against the brightly lit backdrop. It’s sometimes hard to know how many people are onstage and how many objects are being thrown, as the shadows multiply them. A single performer might have five shadows, making the sparse space look full, or none at all, amplifying the emptiness around them.
The individual movements are simple—changes of direction, limb isolations. However the scenes are complex. The performers juggle on and around other people’s bodies, entangle their limbs while throwing balls back and forth, and create structures with different sized rings. The dancers arms never stop moving as they simulate deconstructed juggling movements. Not a single ball goes astray.
Constantly transitioning from group to duet, to solo, to group, to solo again might seem chaotic, but the chanting and extreme synchronicity on stage hypnotize the audience. The trance-like energy sometimes lacks momentum, and never heightens the way one might expect in a circus show, the juggling more of a pedestrian activity than a spectacle, prioritizing precision over emotional connection.
Entrances and exits are also pedestrian, as we saw in the first talking interlude. Throughout Spring performers come to the front of the stage to speak to the audience, breaking up the disorder and giving us a chance to catch our breath. Three performers explain what’s coming next in chorus—they tell us which counts the rings will be thrown on and when they will change colour. Even with explicit instructions it’s difficult to track, with so many rings in the air, so many dancers, and so many shadows relentlessly drawing the eye from place to place to place.
At first it’s hard to tell if the flying rings really are changing colour—it seems like a trick of the eye. Maybe they’re creating the illusion with lights? Nope! The pure white rings secretly have colours painted on the back, and when flipped they move so quickly you can’t be sure you saw anything.
More and more colours are added to the show’s palette, contrasting against the grey clothing and white juggling objects. At first the lights are only a stark white or black, but later incorporate intense reds, yellows and greens. Late in the show the performers start to add pops of colour to their costumes, red sleeves, a blue sash, etc. These disappear almost as soon as they appear, leaving the dancers in grey, rather than growing to the colourful finale I expect.
The final scene features performers hobbling around, hunched over as if they only just now stopped walking on all fours, grunting and juggling sloppily, their balls scattering across the stage. This evolves into precise juggling standing upright, but still feels out-of-place.
I recommend watching Spring if you have an hour and want to be lulled into a trance by the calming chanting and recurring movements.