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The Cabiri Thrill and Chill with Winternacht

Written by Mariko Nagashima
Heather Eichorst of The Cabiri
Photo by Jessie Hirsch

The Cabiri’s annual Ghost Game performance, this year dubbed Winternacht, dazzles in its depiction of wintry myths through a blend of aerial feats and dance acrobatics. As a performance troupe, The Cabiri serves to bring to life the mission of the Anunnaki Project: to present the mythology and folklore of ancient cultures through aerial dance. This noble mission aligns perfectly with their Halloween themed performance, where all the stories portray evil spirits and disturbing supernatural occurrences. The group pays exquisite attention to detail in these restorations, from a conch shell that actually sounds a warning to the cleverly devised devil-horned leather hats worn by the Hittite pantheon, and the entire troupe’s Kabuki-esque make-up. Though these intricacies often seem over-the-top, they do impart the feeling of watching something as close to the original as we can conceive today. The spectacular presentations of these stories also causes the aerial work to feel secondary at times, though no less impressive for it.

Dangling high above the audience (and at times swinging thrillingly over their heads) the troupe performs on a variety of apparatuses. Artistic Director John Murphy’s solo on three loops of chain is one of the many highlights. A continuous vortex of metal and flesh, he rotates in mid-air, propelled only by his formidable strength. Depicting a captive of the evil Russian witch Marzana, the clanking chains add to the drama of the scene. Heather Eichorst’s solo on a loop of white silk delivers a quieter moment in the Russian tale of “Morozco.” Eichorst moves with serene grace through splits and arabesques, her fluidity echoing the supple fabric and complementing her sweet portrayal of a young girl lost in the frozen woods.

In the Greek tale “Boreas,” Murphy and the petite Lauren Kettner revolve above the crowd on a single metal hoop. Their non-stop centrifugal force is dizzying to behold. Kettner floats horizontally, supported only by Murphy’s flexed feet in one stunning pose. Later, Charly McCreary and Susan Bienczycka evoke orbiting stars in a duet on separate silver hoops, rotating simultaneously in lusciously contorted shapes.

Cabiri dancers in “Telepinu”
Photo by Jessie Hirsch

Saving the best for last, however, the whole troupe performed in the finale “Telepinu.” A work of non-stop action, the piece includes a gymnastic-filled battle scene, an entrancing duet on a net of blue mesh, and three simultaneous duets on icy blue silks, all to relay the story of how a deep-rooted conflict brought frost to the Hittite gods’ eternal summerland. Most entrancing was the triple duet. As the “frost,” Courtney Dressner, Erica Sherman, and Susan Bienczycka tangle their limbs with the fabric at a lofty height, only to drop dramatically, caught in various splits and poses by their self-imposed knots. It becomes even more impressive when, Kettner, Marissa Smith, and Kirra Steinbrueck crawl vertically over the now-inverted “frost” and the duets perform more gasp-inducing stunts together.

With Winternacht, the Cabiri proves itself capable of raw athletics and acrobatics as well as grand story-telling. And while the mythological nature of the stories feels overwhelming at times, it is all part of the unique experience. A novel Halloween treat, the Cabiri’s shows continue October 23 and 28–31st at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit