Cirque Sublime amazes families despite poor setup

From across the darkened Kuhl Gymnasium, a voice ricocheted over a waiting audience. "A camera is a box for collecting light," it said. "It collects light that would be lost forever … turns a moment into a lifetime."

This is how an audience of families, faculty and locals were introduced to the Limelight & Accents Series' latest offering, Cirque Sublime, at Saturday's Parents Weekend performance.

Less Barnum and Bailey and more Cirque du Soleil, the Toronto-based company's acrobatic showcases were equal parts beauty, wit and strength and have been bringing audience excitement to new heights ever since the troupe's founding in 1997.

"It's more than just watching and eating popcorn," said Cirque Sublime artistic director Decker LaDouceur in a 2005 Times Herald interview. "It stimulates the mind so much greater. That's really what we want to do. We want to stimulate people and make them feel they're a part of this environment."

If the audiences' shocked and awed gasps were anything to go by, this was exactly the effect the performance had on Geneseo patrons … at least, it was the effect felt by those who could see. Unfortunately, the gymnasium's setup made it incredibly difficult for many audience members to see pieces of the performance that took place at ground level.

People with floor seats were forced either to crane their necks to catch glimpses of the impressive tumbling and juggling routines or to find more creative solutions, such as sneaking onto the bleachers, standing or stacking chairs. Families that could not get behind such efforts simply walked out minutes into the performance.

For those on the bleachers or those willing to deal with inconvenient viewing angles, the performance itself was magnificently executed. The show followed the overarching story of a fictional German photographer whose artistry was being tragically wasted taking wedding photos. This all changed when, one day, he bought a mysterious camera that takes pictures that only show "the truth at the heart."

The photographer functioned as a transitional device and introduced each acrobatic feat; the scenes functioned as either visual metaphors or representations of the photographer's journey with this camera. Formulaic? Possibly, but the humor and charm of this protagonist made him a fresh and delightful addition, a good counterpoint to the poignant, almost surreal nature of the actual circus acts.

Paired with a diverse array of music ranging from rock to New Age tunes, the acrobatics in this show were as varied as the melodies to which they were set. Some were decidedly lighthearted, like the recurring package delivery boys who specialized in spunky bicycle and unicycle antics; others were much more pensive. No matter the tone, all pieces were remarkably executed.

"I thought it was spectacular," said psychology professor Monica Schneider. "The stunts were amazing and different … surprising."

"I'm just amazed by it," said visiting parent Tricia Dittmer.

There was a lot by which to be amazed. One woman's delicate performance, coiling and uncoiling into different poses and drops while hanging above the gym from two white ribbons, was sheer loveliness. Another, the last performance, was a collection of careful and stunning lifts by two men, graceful and strong. Other highlights included break dancing, metal box twirling and hoop dancing.

As Christina Latone, a visitor from the Rochester area who heard of the show from a friend, said, "It's amazing what the human body can do."

With no animals, no clowns and no ringmaster, Cirque Sublime isn't what most people picture when they imagine a circus, but it's that distinctiveness that makes it noteworthy. The show was a visual treat for all.