C!rca - What Will Have Been (copy)

Circa, a physical theater troupe from Australia, returns to Spoleto Festival USA.

The stage, completely barren, is encased in fog. This starkness, which remains throughout the performance, contrasts with the intense physicality of Circa’s “What Will Have Been,” an intimate show the Australia-based physical theater troupe has brought to Spoleto Festival USA this year.

Sometimes emotional, always physical and with a touch of humor, this is a performance art piece — emotional, humorous, erotic — that stretches the boundaries of a what a body can do. “What Will Have Been,” under the direction of Yaron Lifschitz, is a haunting and profound piece, featuring only three acrobats.

They are joined onstage for two numbers by violinist Lachlan O’Donnell, who sets the mood for the show with music by J.S. Bach and Philip Glass.

As he plays, the acrobats contort and stretch their bodies in controlled, specific movements. When partnered or tumbling as a trio, they wow with movements of grandeur and intimacy.

Circa’s “What Will Have Been” is neither classic circus fare nor a modernized spectacle of the Cirque du Soleil sort. It is its own gorgeously crafted work whose performers move across the stage with a powerful intentionality.

Each acrobat has a solo moment — Kimberley O’Brien on ropes, Daniel O’Brien on hand-balance blocks and Hamish McCourty tumbling. Following each solo, the performer is joined by a fellow acrobat, bringing in a new layer to the work as they hoist each other onto their shoulders, twist around each other’s bodies or balance on top of one another’s heads.

This production, with just three acrobats, is perhaps more impressive than those with large casts because of the concentrated demands — physical and emotional — put on them. Lifschitz created a rapturous piece that beautifully bridges the gap between circus art and contemporary movement.

Reviewer Madalyn Owen is a Goldring arts journalist at Syracuse University.

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