Review: Rough (Flying Solo)

One-nighter at Buddies showcases circus arts

I had the pleasure of seeing  Rough tonight, part of Buddies’ Queer Pride Festival 2016.  It’s a circus show – not the old-fashioned type with dancing bears and clown cars, but a human circus of the variety made popular by companies such as Cirque du Soleil.

I entered the Buddies in Bad Times main chamber to find a large, rowdy, enthusiastic crowd waiting for the show to begin. There was a cash bar right behind the seating area, and this no doubt contributed to the party-like atmosphere.

The stage was set to an earthy, forest-like scene, complete with a dark glittery backdrop representing the night sky, a rock/cliff (apparently named Dwayne, according to the program notes), a tire swing (cheekily named Michelin), a tree, and a row of greenery.

Once the show began, a hush fell on the crowd.  Performer Jen Moore opened with an acrobatic inspired dance which showcased her strength and flexibility.  Pole dancer Liona Davies followed,  showcasing more the athletic and artistic side of this type of dance rather than the naughty side of it. Next was a number by performer Charissa Wilcox on the tire swing (“Michelin”) and rope.

And then…

The audience became completely mesmerized by performer Wesley BalaBam on the “cube” (quite literally, a suspended cube that functions like a trapeze). At one point, he was balancing headfirst only by his two ankles. And he did not have his feet crossed for more stability. Oh no, he was literally hanging by his ankles from a swinging cube. Needless to say, the crowd started to become a little noisy and rowdy at this point. This was helped by the fact that Mr. BalaBam had a ton of stage presence and his entire act was very fluid and polished. I think it’s safe to say that the entire audience (myself included) could not take their eyes off of him for his entire act.

Next came something that I haven’t seen in a circus performance before: a bondage component. Performer Lara Ebata was seen at the top of the  onstage cliff with ropes placed in a complicated web around her back, ankles, and wrists.  It was fascinating to watch how the ropes attached to her limbs acted almost like a pulley system enabling her to remain suspended while doing various twists, turns, and poses.

The other standout act of the night was performer Mahogany Storm burning up the pole. He appeared in sky-high platform shoes, tons of glitter, and the largest boa I have ever seen. The audience completely ate up his larger-than-life stage persona and skillful, sexy dancing.

The closing act of the night was a ladder act – also something I haven’t seen in a circus show before. It was a show of pure strength and flexibility on the part of performer Shane MacKinnon. At one point he was literally suspending his whole body sideways using one arm. Picture a one-armed push up. Now picture it sideways. In the air. Yeah, that’s what this guy actually did…and for more than just a few seconds.

Who knew that there was so much glitter and so many fabulous people in the forest at nighttime?!

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