A Fine-Art Circus of Ballet and Juggling - OZY | A Modern Media Company

A Fine-Art Circus of Ballet and Juggling

A Fine-Art Circus of Ballet and Juggling

By Tracy Moran


Because juggling isn’t just for clowns.

By Tracy Moran

If a talented juggler and a classical dancer had a hot love affair, imagine where such passions could lead. Their offspring might throw balls in the air with both reckless abandon and the poise of a prima ballerina, and they might call it the ultimate balancing act.

Cue Gandini Juggling’s brilliantly executed, oddly named show 4×4: Ephemeral Architectures, a performance featuring four ballet dancers and four professional jugglers. Onstage, they breathe new life into the chaotic perception of juggling, elegantly foisting classical dance’s sense of right and wrong on their pin-tossing moves. Co-founder and master juggler Sean Gandini has said he tried to imagine a “correct” way of executing his trade’s hallmarks — an artistic endeavor traditionally without rules — like the four-ball fountain or juggling five balls at once, to give the discipline a balletic sense of beauty and classicism.

Dancers and jugglers weave, spin and sashay into a variety of patterns, exchanging implements with mathematical precision.

This concept bleeds through, even at the expense of less-than-demanding ballet moves, with a piece that is clearly more dedicated to the art of juggling than to fancy footwork. But the result is a mesmerizing display of patterns, in the air and on the ground, that explore both disciplines’ reliance on timing and space, as well as the essential trust that colleagues will always be at just the right place.

Royal Ballet’s rising French choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela choreographed the show, and Gandini incorporated grace, fun and humor throughout. A gray-clad cast adds a hint of spice with colorful balls and fleeting glimpses of bright red underpants. Throughout, there’s an uplifting beat and playfulness reminiscent of well-coordinated children. They’re unleashed by the music of Nimrod Borenstein’s “Suspended Opus 69,” as dancers and jugglers weave, spin and sashay into a variety of patterns, exchanging implements with mathematical precision — like the show’s name suggests — for 65 minutes.

Gandini Juggling, formed in 1992, has always aimed to show how juggling can be used in different ways, from street-artist fun to fine art, and Gandini himself is a regular in front of Covent Garden crowds and upscale theatergoers alike. His company has performed more than 5,000 shows in 50 countries, and Gandini believes they’ve only just begun to tap into juggling’s choreographic potential. The 4×4: Ephemeral Architectures production debuted in London in January 2015, has tour dates in Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy throughout 2016, and will leap over the pond to the U.S. in 2017.

This is juggling like you’ve never seen it — think Cirque du Soleil–cum–Barnum & Bailey clowns–cum–Parisian panache — a celebration of systematic precision and fine art. Quite simply, a feast for the eyes.

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