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Shoreditch Town Hall, London

That the spectators are welcomed into taking part into a ritualistic performance is made evident from the very start, with Stefan Kinsman forming a circle of brownish orange earth onto the stage amidst industrial sounds. After a brief silence and black-out, Juan Ignacio Tula energetically burst into the circle inside a Cyr wheel, his breathing amplified and echoing around the room.

A very recent artform, the Cyr wheel is one of the most spectacular and dangerous circus disciplines, with the performer spinning and contained in a slender steel hoop, his arms and legs stretched out. Both members of the innovative Compagnie Mpta (which stands for hands, feet and the head too), however, push the exploration of the different whirling and balancing possibilities offered by the Cyr wheel to its utmost limits, with pure physicality and perfect mastery. Sometimes on their own inside the wheel, sometimes together, their choreography allies precision and complicity, strength and grace.

Their show, Santa Madera (or Sacred Wood) is not only physically mesmerising, it is also poetic and thought-provoking, leaving the viewers’ imagination run wild with ideas: is the show a comment about our relationship with objects, with power, or with religion? While the fight in the earth recalls the South American miners in Sebastian Salgado’s photographs, an imaginary walk on a sandy beach, with an audio background of birds and ocean waves, tells us about friendship, and a mundane chat reminds us of the two protagonists in “Of Mice and Men”. With its range of moods, in turn violent and tender, supported by music from Chile, Costa Rica, Italy and France, the show allies brilliant physicality and moving poetry to the delight of the audience.

In the end, the show left us more conscious of our own body and our own mind: what a powerful effect to have!

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