Tag Archives: Chinese pole

Letting the Disorderly Speak: Petit Mal (Race Horse Company)

(Video Credit: Race Horse Company’s promotional video.)

Petit Mal by Race Horse Company is a one hour-and-fifteen minutes circus performance featuring superb skills on the trampoline and Chinese pole. Here I wrote about how two performers set-up a half-an-hour circus show in a street performance in Gothenburg. In Petit Mal, we get clowning, acrobatics, and break dancing spread out amongst merely three performers. During one of the last tricks, the trampoline artist Rauli Kosonen lost his balance standing on eleven rubber tires (yes, I counted as I held my breath), but got back on after two attempts. He closed his eyes hard before bowing to the audience at the end of the show. The three of them looked absolutely knackered. It’s a performance about the chaotic and the bizarre held together by energy, strength, and perseverance to carry it through.

I really enjoyed the element of “losing control.” The breakdancer Kalle Lehto eventually cuts one of the wires holding the Chinese Pole. When he took out the pair of gigantic scissors a teenage girl behind me said, “Oh, no you don’t,” then gasped loudly when he cut the wire. Blue fitness balls hang in an orange net from the ceiling. These fitness balls are released from the net during the middle of the performance, and create further spontaneity as they roam freely, some of them even rolling off the stage. All this happens on a stage that resembles an outdoor factory workshop where the performers throw wood planks carelessly here and there, or move rubber tires around in a random fashion.

Kosonen is superb, showcasing his trampolining skills on the trampoline and a huge red fitness ball. The flashing lights at the end was a new experience for me, as I realized that flashing lights give the illusion of stillness, prolonging the shapes in the air by a split of a second because of the way our eyes capture light. Petri Trominen is breathtaking on the Chinese pole, making the big drops and turns in the air look effortless and seamless. Lehto’s breakdancing is enhanced by sound devices underneath the wood planks so we can “hear” his body movements as well as see them.

What didn’t work quite well for me was how they incorporated the element of bizarreness into the show. We got not one but two Elvis Presleys, Donald Duck, a Canadian mountaineer, and a horse with sexy legs. There were too many images and characters to process in one go, and by this point I lost a bit of concentration. I couldn’t see–and still can’t–the connection between Donald Duck and Elvis Presley. Maybe it’s not supposed to make sense. The show is called Petit Mal after all, referring to “absence seizure.” This section of the performance uses pink, orange, and green lighting to create a distorted, perhaps a hallucinated view of the world. But I think there could be a stronger connection established between these images and characters to hold the spectator’s attention.

Overall it was a very enjoyable evening. But be prepared to keep an open mind, as this is not a show about grace and beauty in an orderly world, but about letting the disorderly speak.

Circus Delight in Gothenburg

I planned to visit an old friend in Gothenburg, Sweden after the viva.  It was meant to be a celebration trip, so I hesitated whether I should still go away on holiday after the disappointing result of major corrections.  In the end I decided to go because I hadn’t seen my friend in a long time, and I needed something to distract me from being depressed.  I had my viva on a Monday, so pretty much cried throughout the week and couldn’t leave the flat until Sunday.  The weather was incredibly sunny that day, the whole city was alive with the amount of people that came to enjoy the seafront.  I half cried through my lunch as I felt I couldn’t join in the season of summer festivities.

I managed to decide to go to Gothenburg anyway where my friend Fabiana lives.  I had a great time, and the trip dispelled the viva blues… Until I came back at least.  One of the nicest surprises was to see a free street circus show.  I only found out that I caught the annual culture festival in Gothenburg, and a number of events were free to the public.  We were on our way to Haga, an area similar to London’s Soho in vibe, when we caught glimpse of the performance from afar.  It was the last ten minutes of that performance, but we checked the time schedule on the board and were lucky to find that they were performing again at 6pm.

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Doubles on the cloud swing.

It was only a half-an-hour performance, but I was impressed not only by their muscles (I want those muscles!), but also admired their choreography.  It was only two of them filling up half-an-hour.  One could tell they were experienced performers from the way they engaged with the audience and entertained them. There was no break within the half-hour, so they would take turns to rest while remaining in character.  The physical endurance required to perform the moves the way they did showed they were very skilled and strong.  As with Scandinavian summers the weather wasn’t very warm, so it’s more likely to get injured performing outdoors in those temperatures.  Circus and physical theatre performers make tricks look easy, it’s easy to forget the amount of training they go through to achieve that strength.  Fabiana is not a circus enthusiast as I am, but after seeing them perform she “advised” that I definitely need to build more muscles.

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A move similar to the “flag” on the rope but on the Chinese pole.

I was also impressed with how they managed to play with different equipments in such a short amount of time.  They used the pole of the free-standing rig as a Chinese pole, the cloud swing as a rope, and the platform at the top of the rig to do something similar to an ankle hang on the trapeze bar.

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Fancy tea upside down?

There was also acrobalance.

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I’m a lady… strong lady!

I usually don’t take that many photos during a performance because taking photos distracts me from enjoying the moment.  I think this time I clicked away to my heart’s content because it was such an unexpected nice surprise.  What I feel really bad about now is I’ve actually forgotten the name of their circus troupe!  The whole point of performing is to let people know who you are.  I can’t believe I’ve forgotten!  I know they’re Danish performers, and I thought I could google them, but haven’t found them yet.  I can only remember that the name of their circus troupe is a combination of their names together starting with a B (Billie?).

If you recognise these amazing performers, drop me a line. :)

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You were wonderful!