Circus for everyone

The multifaceted Circolombia is coming to town

Circolombia (photo credit: PR)
(photo credit: PR)
If we were to try very hard, we could probably sort every single staged performance into clean, organized categories. We could separate out what is theater, dance, opera, music and circus. We would probably run into some trouble on the way, as there tends to be a crossover among the genres. Circolombia’s production Acelere, which will make its way to Israel next month, might trip us up.
The production, which is performed by circus artists from all over the world, blends together nearly all the above styles. There is theater, music, dance and circus arts. However, finding a simple category for Acelere will be the last thing on the audience’s mind. This crossover between styles, art forms and nationalities is what makes Acelere shine, and it’s what drew internationally renowned choreographer Carlos Neto into the folds of Circolombia.
“I’m 31 years old. I was born in Portugal, in Lisbon. I lived in the UK for 10 years, and I’ve been in the US, in New York, since 2013. Right now, I’m in Norwich, England, to rehearse with Circolombia, but I was in Paris last week and Dubai before that,” explains Neto over Skype. He speaks with a Portuguese lilt, with several words accented by a British echo.
“I have been working with Circolombia for the past several years. We started with Urban, which the team worked on forever. These guys are my friends, and I am so proud of what they are doing.”
In Neto’s eyes, Urban was a heavier production than Acelere.
“Urban was a little more suited to the culture of Colombia and was a little dark. Acelere is more upbeat and light. The show is in its second version now, and there are a lot of new tricks, a lot of new artists in the company. Everything is new,” he says.
Circolombia is the artistic agency of Circa Para Todos, a circus school founded by Felicity Simpson and Hector Fabio Como in Cali, Colombia, in 1995. The idea of the school was to channel the energies of low-income, at-risk and local youth into the adrenaline-coursed form of circus arts. Two years later, the couple established the world’s first professional circus school. Four years after that, to provide a home for their first graduates, Simpson and Como founded Circolombia. Both Urban and Acelere were initiated by Circolombia and produced by the Roundhouse theater in London.
What the graduates brought to the table was a mix of tricks, personal narratives and artistry that had not yet been seen in the circus sphere.
“Circus doesn’t have to be a guy doing a trick and everyone claps. We put a lot of culture, personal experience of Colombian culture into it. We bring a show that people want to watch from beginning to end without a break,” says Neto.
Having worked with professional dancers for most of his career, Neto found that the Circolombia gang had its own advantages and disadvantages.
“A lot of these guys are acrobats first; they are not trained dancers per se. They have very trained bodies that can be stiff in choreography, so getting them together to do a cohesive performance was a challenge at first,” he recounts.
Neto spent weeks ironing out the transitions between sections, bringing some much-needed flow to the story.
His favorite section is the show is called Depercha.
“It’s a number where one of the main guys holds a circular object on his hand, with a girl balancing on it. I like the way it’s choreographed and the way it connects to the acrobatics, how we put it together with the whole cast, how it creates a connection among the artists,” he says.
As he sees it, the future of Circolombia lies in the troupe’s ability to continuously integrate more elements.
“We need to harness the capabilities of light, to put a lot more acting in shows like this, more dance, acrobats and acting. The more art forms are in it, the more people will want to watch it,” Neto says.
Circolombia will perform ‘Acelere’ on August 2 to 5 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. For more information, visit