"Nomade" is the third production in Cirque Eloize's nine-year history, and like the presentations of its more famous cousin Cirque de Soleil, it poses questions about what a circus can do both as entertainment and art.

“Nomade” is the third production in Cirque Eloize’s nine-year history, and like the presentations of its more famous cousin Cirque de Soleil, it poses questions about what a circus can do both as entertainment and art. There are, of course, the amazing feats of balance and athleticism in the troupe’s acrobatic acts: the tumblers, trapeze artists, hand balancers, aerial hoopsters; the higher and higher jumps from the teeterboarders; and contortionist Genevieve Gauthier, who can inspect the soles of her feet upside down — enough to keep little kids in the audience pondering something heretofore unseen in the adult world, and adults amazed at the near limitlessness of what the human body can do.

And Bartlomiej Soroczynski plays a bony pallid Big Bird to the more officious and ceremonial Nicholas Leresche in several clown acts that link commedia dell’arte to vaudeville, classic European clowning to Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello.

But for all its eye-catching, breath-baiting acrobatics, the true joy of “Nomade” lies in its second-act invitation to an all-night party. There, under a starry sky and a fat pearly moon so close you can count its pores, the revelers sit at a banquet table to watch the bare-chested Nicolas Roche wind his way up a rope and descend to snatch a wedding gown with his feet and twirl it upward like a gauzy tornado. Then Guillaume Saladin and Karine Delzors perform a pas de deux in half-darkness, their bodies glistening in a falling misty rain. It’s then that “Nomade” becomes a source of dark wonder far beyond any act.

There’s something more evocative in the show’s unearthing of a human root that goes far deeper than globalization’s presumption of a one-world market. In this case it’s a village wedding that could take place anywhere from Belarus to the Catalan region of Spain, with a couple of references to Fellini’s poignantly scruffy processionals thrown in. Lucie Cauchon, Maria Bonzanigo and Charles Kaczynski’s music has a strong gypsy feel played by merry onstage musicians, with Langis Turcotte adding impish and derisive klezmer licks on clarinet.

Nomade

Royce Hall, UCLA; 1,818 seats; $45

Production

A Cirque Eloize presentation in association with UCLA Live of a Daniele Finzi Pasca and Jeannot Painchaud circus creation. Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca.

Crew

Sound, David Wirtgen; music, Lucie Cauchon, Maria Bonzanigo and Charles Kaczynski, with song texts by Daniele Finzi Pasca; head trainer and acrobatic conception, Krzsztof Soroczynski; sets, Guillaume Lord; costumes, Meredith Caron; lighting, Martin Labrecque; makeup, Suzanne Trepanier. Stage manager, Marc Laliberte. Opened Sept. 20, 2002; reviewed Sept. 24, 2002. Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.

Cast

With: Yamoussa Bangoura, Antoine Carabinier Lepine, Karine Delzors, Ewelina Fijolek, Genevieve Gauthier, Josianne Levassuer, Nicolas Leresche, Nicolas Roche, Guillaume Saladin, Andrzej Sokolowski, Robert Sokolowski, Suzanne Soler, Bartlomiej Soroczynski, Stefan Wepfer, Langis Turcotte, Charles Kaczynski, Josianne Laporte, Sonia Painchaud.
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