Why you should care

Because we all want to fly.

Seeing a performance by French trapeze artist Chloé Moglia is a harrowing experience. Her latest show, Aléas, begins in the dark. As the lights come on, you realize Moglia is already above you — suspended, with no nets, from a bar that snakes its way from one side of the theater’s alarmingly high ceiling to the other. As Moglia slowly makes her way across the room, legs dangling, she relies only on her callused hands and strong arms to carry the weight of her compact form. Watching, you sometimes forget to breathe. This is circus at its finest, but it’s also something more — a direct confrontation with mortality.

The show is slow and meditative, oscillating between almost excruciatingly nerve-racking and excruciatingly beautiful. When Moglia finally makes it back to the ground, she slips into red heels, attaches a microphone and talks to the audience about what she has just done. She is joined onstage by five other women, who flip, turn and dangle from a trapeze bar as Moglia speaks. Her words mingle with their movements and the performance feels like a refreshing, wild, totally non-PowerPoint version of a TED Talk.

It is about metaphysics and mortality, an art that requires the physical strength of an Olympic athlete and the grace of a ballet dancer.

Through movement and words, Moglia touches on both philosophy and physics. For her, hovering above a room is a way of pushing creative boundaries and entering a different sphere of reality. She describes what it feels like in hyperconscious detail — the pressure in her head, the blood flowing into her hands — as she takes a “break,” wrapping her knees around the bar to hang upside down.

A graduate of the Centre National des Arts du Cirque, France’s prestigious circus school, Moglia seeks a form of higher consciousness through her trapeze work, both for herself and for her audience. Aléas (which means “random”) offers a “lapse in time” to audience members. It’s an exploration of concentration and fluidity, and this, according to Moglia, speaks to a life truth. The show is also an example of the high regard for and refinement of circus arts in France. It is not about lions jumping through rings of fire; it is about metaphysics and mortality, an art that requires the physical strength of an Olympic athlete and the grace of a ballet dancer.

“I am going somewhere, but I would say that I cannot see what I’m looking for,” Moglia says. “The more you try to achieve control, the more it escapes you.”

The best way of coping with such existential questions is, for Moglia, the trapeze. As she puts it, “It is a good way to feel life run through you.”

Video:

Chloé Moglia - Rhizome : Aléas

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