CircusFest, Jackson’s Lane, London
Reviewed 15 April 2016
The Finnish double-bill of Pinta and WireDo began with the stronger of the two pieces, WireDo, from tightwire artist Hanna Moisala. Both shows are presented as part of SIRKUS – a showcase of Finnish circus work held at Jackson’s Lane in association with the Finnish Institute in London and Circus Info Finland, the country’s national body for promotion and development of the circus arts.
WireDo is a finely balanced piece of work that contains beauty and tranquility in a yin yang of control. The black’n’blonde colour scheme is clear and effective, with warming lighting from Juha Rouhikoski.
Moisala is a proficient wire-walker, but where she impresses most is in her artistic integration of two culturally distinct practises, under direction from Taina Kopra. Her funambulism is incorporated with elements of Kinbaku in what is, oddly enough, the second circus-based presentation I’ve seen to utilise the sensual Japanese knot-tying practice this month.
Music, which incorporates brushed cymbals and wind sounds as well as minimalist melody, is by Terhi Pippuri, successfully enhancing the Eastern feel of the show.
Subtle flickers of facial expression let us know that Moisala is pleased to have us here, although we have no role within her focused play. She wraps herself in ropes, or lets them – and her wire – wrap her, in an empowering solo exploration of the submissive and the dominant roles usually enacted in Shibari.
The freestanding wire rig is also wrapped and tied with ropes of differing thicknesses, and Moisala creates harnesses for herself that connect her to the structure in ways that allow for suspension and stretched connection. In addition to the wire, a three-strand cord is slung from the rig, providing a flexible support for fluid balances and rolls and, later, releasing to become a tether of its own. Some of the most striking visuals are formed when Moisala wafts the ropes behind her, and we watch them brightly rise and fall against the darkened stage behind.
Difference ‘acts’ within the 40 minute show seem to be arbitrarily selected samples of Moisala’s intimate explorations of her environment, separated by abrupt lighting changes and distinct music tracks.. There is no narrative trajectory, and even the end seems like simply the closure of our viewing window onto activity that will continue without us.
The interplay of grace and strength in WireDo provides a meditative atmosphere in an intriguing and unusual display.
‘Pinta’ by Zero Gravity & WHS
Pinta (‘surface’, in English), also offers a solo performance featuring rope, in a workshop style offering whose interest lies in Ainu Palmu‘s innovative lighting concepts, which highlight the periphery, or things usually unseen. It begins with a single bar of light that burns the central, vertically hanging rope’s shadow onto the back wall, illuminating every fibre that fluffs from the twisted cord. Later on, reflections of Salla Hakanpää clinging to the rope reveal the floor has been invisibly covered with water, and a further shift allows ripples on the water to be seen on the black wall at the back of the stage, in conjunction with double shadows of the aerialist on her rope. When Hakanpää splinters the watery surface with her fingertips or toes, the flinging droplets glitter like diamonds.
Pinta takes a long time to reach these visually entrancing moments though. The early stages feel like a student showcase experimentation on the theme of spirals. While I notice shared motifs of wrapping and unwrapping, there is a juvenile feel to this material after the detail of the previous piece, and the rehearsal-room aesthetic is a disappointment after the clearly delineated visual qualities of it’s fore-running companion.
Hakanpää performs with fourth wall blinkers that make it difficult to engage with her, and her slow getting-to-know-you process with the rope doesn’t come with any layers of tension or story. A final section of projected video shows an underwater sequence of work with a twin vertical rope, which shows us the effort of aerial performance whilst illusorily masking it with silence and stylised shots.
While this show may be more about presenting artistic experimentation than a considered audience experience, there is value in sharing such explorations, paving the way for other circus artists to follow and develop from ideas that, while not breaking new ground within the arts in general, certainly are in the circus sphere as it continues to expand. Pinta has been directed by Ville Walo of visual new magic and circus team WHS, and was conceived by Hakanpää of Zero Gravity and the creative team (Walo, Palmu, Tuuli Kytälä on sound and Anne Jämsä on costume and stage design).