by April Stamm
If only your dinner parties were this cool: your adorable kitchen packed with well-placed hipster kitsch and peopled with fascinatingly gorgeous, mustachioed, skinny-jeans-wearing friends from all corners of the world who all passionately chat about and love and life… oh, and did I mention all the while these fabulous friends perform death-defying feats of acrobatics, juggling and aerial work? The 7 Fingers production of Cuisine & Confessions is that dreamy dinner party. What could be even more impressive than the awe-inspiring physical talent of the performers in this production is that they’ve managed to bring personality, compassion and actual humor to this one-of-a-kind piece of theater.
Behind this production is The 7 Fingers (Les 7 Doigts), a circus/acrobatic troupe out of Montreal, Canada. Created in 2002 by seven circus artists, they have had their hands in everything from original productions, project collaborations, Broadway shows (the recent revival of Pippin) to the Olympics opening ceremonies in Sochi.
Cuisine & Confessions begins with an overture of small, musical/verbal snippets foreshadowing larger vignettes. This intro segment is cleverly titled “These are the Ingredients.” The rest of the performance plays out in a series of 15 pieces and a finale each focusing on one or two of the troupe with the rest of the accomplished performers serving as the ensemble and oft times as human set pieces to be leapt off or rolled under. Each story is told within a framework of food and memories. Many of the vignettes are based on the performers’ actual lives, dreams, fears and thoughts.
One particular stand out is Anna Kichtchenko’s section “The Departed,” which abstractly tells the story of lost loves and the beauties of borscht through a phenomenal aerial silks routine that is as heartwarming and emotional as it is visually stunning. Tandem hoop-diving drives the stories of Sidney Bateman and Melvin Diggs in “Leaving St. Louis.” Using spoken word recorded by the artists, they tell their individual tales of growing up in the fear and sometimes loneliness of urban St. Louis and the food and love they clung to as they leap through wooden frames.
Putting it all together, the director/choreographer/writer team of Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila has accomplished more than simply staging some great circus routines. They have found a way to make the death-defying feats connectible. Some of the stories are heart-wrenching; Matias Plaul’s “Song for My Father,” a Chinese Pole routine, tells the story of his father’s capture, internment in a concentration camp and execution by the Argentine government. Some segments are quirky, funny and bawdy like Gabriela Parigi’s “One Woman’s Life Recipe,” a passionately frenetic five- minute telling of her entire life through acro-dance. Each story works together literally and structurally to give us a look into the human condition.
Without the original music and original arrangements of Nans Bortuzzo, Raphael Cruz, Colin Gagne, Spike Wilner, and DJ Pocket, this production would not be as successful as it is. Doing just as much towards creating a world of warmth, humor and awe as the performers do, the music in this performance is creative, poignant and full of energy. The cover of “You’re the One That I Want” (yes, the tough Sandy song from “Grease”) alone will give you chills.
Circus in is the air lately. Acrobatics, juggling and amazing feats are showing up everywhere from Broadway to your local gym. Setting aside all the hype, what makes Cuisine & Confessions truly stand out is that it emotionally connects with its audience and understands the importance of really telling a story.
Cuisine & Confessions
The 7 Fingers
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 LaGuardia Place, NYC
Through April 16
April Stamm is a theater, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to Edge Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center.