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7 Fingers

The most rudimentary function of the Circus is to make googly-eyed children of us all. As we ooh and aah over the lithe, pixie-like performers, hold our breaths for death-defying feats, and split our sides laughing at preposterously zany antics, it's easy to recognize the appeal. The Circus is that most primeval playground of wonder, mixing up the ethereal and exotic with the familiar and favorite accoutrements of childhood. Montreal, Quebec's septuplet of performers, Les 7 Doigts de la Main (or more simply, 7 Fingers) hold the trump cards in their delightful restoration of that dormant sense of possibility…with a decidedly grown-up twist.

In their United States premiere presented by Circus Center San Francisco, the 7 Fingers troupe provides a glorious array of classical ballet, vertiginous aerial tricks, and a hip 20-something style and humor that permeates the show. The seven luminaries have been performers in some of the most celebrated circus groups in the world, including Teatro Zinzanni and Cirque du Soleil. Their style, while rooted in the child-like fascination of big-top circus, is more aligned with cabaret and is both carnivalesque and performative. This "new circus" movement, often described as community circus, juxtaposes and contrasts different routines, which are linked together by a narrative of stories, costumes, music, themes, and repeated movements. It's a delicious and complex dish that's served with a sauciness especially concocted for grown-ups.

The premise of their show is beautifully wacky. Almost like a cooler, acrobatic version of Friends, the show takes place in an imaginary loft in which the seven performers have voluntarily sequestered themselves from the outside world. What ensues is an outlandish diversion with apples, knives, bathtubs, shoes, Barbieä dolls, and lampshades. It's an exuberant and intricate statement: Without the commotion of modern life, the screwball commune probes into a world of objects that transforms the whole stage into a magical tableau of symbols. In one scene a female contortionist snakes around a tablecloth, is pulled up toward the ceiling, and chews on an apple in mischievous tribute to Eve. The ensemble charts the landscape of memory, desire, and desperation through unlikely events and comparisons. The 7 Fingers provide a study in contrasts, and the scenes constantly shift from deep and dreamy to mad and muddled.

7 Fingers have already performed across Europe and Japan and were the sleeper hit of Montreal's "Just for Laughs" Festival last year. Gypsy Snider and Shana Carroll, both San Francisco natives, round up the troupe with some requisite Bay Area talent: both women are veterans of the Pickle Family Circus. Founded by Snider's parents, the Pickle Family Circus were pioneers among "new circus" performers in their expert combination of vaudeville, theater, jazz, modern dance, and the slapstick antics of silent screen comedy.

The 7 Fingers deliver a show that manages to be as quaint as it is novel. Having funded this endeavor entirely on their own, the 7 Fingers enamor their audiences not only with their superlative vision but also with their contagious passion for giving the crowd exactly what they came for: a lesson in awe.

December 17 - January 3
Performed at <a href="/business.php?blId=421"> The Palace of Fine Arts</a>
3301 Lyon St.
(Lyon @ Francisco)