Equal parts circus act, dance, and acting exercise, the Seattle-based group Acrobatic Conundrum’s Love & Gravity (April 8-10 at Broadway Performance Hall) is the result of an artist residency at SANCA (School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts). Conundrum is primarily a circus arts group, but dance elements feature prominently in their performance. Love & Gravity, part of a seven-city tour currently underway, is a fascinating exploration of the romantic lives of its members, and of all the possibilities that different relationships allow.
The show was structured as a series of vignettes using ropes, gymnastic feats, and acrobatics in addition to spoken word sections in which performers recounted stories of past relationships. There was a great deal of humor, playing on awkwardness and occasionally mismatched pairs as the vignettes explored every possible romantic pairing within the group. Humor was never used to the detriment or dismissal of any particular pairing; the performers’ acting ability shone through to make the funniest scenes also the most endearing. The acrobatic pairing of Erica Rubinstein and Terry Crane was particularly memorable, with a gender role swap that had Erica primarily lifting Terry in showstopping stunts.
Dance took precedence over acrobatics as the performers changed their clothes onstage in silence, unceremoniously removing and putting on clothes as if this act was a representation of the passage of time in day-to-day life. Dancers shifted through low-level movements punctuated by flinging clothes into the air, ensuring that the stage was never wanting for points of interest. They moved in and out of inversions, acting through moments of life using empty outfits as partners.
Mood shifts came with ease to Conundrum’s performers as they seamlessly transitioned from the near-boudoir scene of a solo female dancer performing on silks to a comedic interplay between Ty Vennewitz and Scotty Dont, who played pranks on one another while setting up ropes to great comic effect. The bulk of the evening’s latter half took place as three ropes were shared in an improvisational atmosphere; each artist took turns while their peers watched. The rope-work flowed endlessly, each shape as beautiful as the last. It was intriguing to watch each performer’s unique manipulation of the ropes. Although this section was less choreographed than others, it was captivating to see the bare skill of each artist and to witness the sense of play between them.
Conundrum provides a fresh take on dance and circus arts. While Love & Gravity may not have been as familiarly structured as most contemporary dance, it offered delights unique from contemporary and classical dance. Love explored gender dynamics and emotion with heart and honesty through movement. Acrobatic Conundrum puts its trust in the talents and strength—physical and artistic—of its artists, and that trust is well-founded.
Love & Gravity was previously performed in Vashon Island, Portland, OR, Ashland, OR, and San Francisco, CA, and will continue their tour in Brattleboro, VT, and Boston, MA. More information on Acrobatic Conundrum is available on their website.