Humans by Circa

Artistic Director: Yaron Lifschitz

A Civic Theatres Toronto presentation

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto

Friday, November 9, 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox & Beverley Daurio


During interviews when Evidance was a radio show airing on CIUT, many dancers talked about being in the moment and trusting/relying on the others for intricate movements that could maybe end in serious falls or other body injuries. In their show Humans, CIRCA tests their performers to their physical and mental limits. Any mistiming or slip could have serious consequences, which at times in some shows does happen.


In Humans, Yanon Lifshitz, CIRCA’s Aartistic Director, blurs the line between movement theatre, contemporary dance, circus and clown.


The show begins as we enter the brightly lit theatre. One by one the male and female performers do mundane tasks and then walk off-stage. They fold and swap their clothes, putting them on or undressing to reveal their costumes. In so doing they break down the barriers between their everyday and performing personas, as if they are like us, as they show us their regular selves. As the lights dim, all ten come onstage and slide, crash and spin across the floor, leaping over each other with acrobatic delight.


With awesome physicality and stamina they stack themselves atop each other. In some acts of extreme lift and balance, a body’s weight is sustained by one holding another up with only one hand. One woman stands with her back to a man and backflips up and over onto his shoulders. Another woman walks atop the lined up men’s heads casually, relaxed as if she does it every day. Another woman curls up and rolls over them. One woman is held aloft by two men, one on each side suspending her, creating a bridge between them.


Bodies interlock in all sorts of sculptural shapes, like living building blocks. The performers are sometimes all on stage, tumbling and rolling, sometimes in solo, sometimes in duet, and sometimes in different configurations. This gives the show another level of rhythm of presence and absence, almost like a street scene over the course of a few hours.


There is hand balancing throughout, with awesome demonstrations of core strength, upper body strength and flexibility. At one point all of the performers cooperate to pile people four high; at another, the strongman of the group balances five troupe members on his shoulders and neck. There are also daring dismounts from pyramids of performers, and a beautiful sense of flow in the piling up and using the entire width and depth of the stage.



In a hilarious scene of contagious effort, the performers try to kiss their own elbows, with varying degrees of near success. Again, there is a line drawn between the kind of extreme physical ability that they are demonstrating, and normal human limitation, with silliness and humour.


A man pulls and manipulates a woman, throwing her about like a rag doll; he hangs her upside down in front of him, faces with deadened expressions. A woman trapezist bends over and locks and unlocks her pretzel shaped body.


A woman comes out and, in a microsecond, falls from being upright to extreme splits on the floor, legs splayed out. She then does a variety of moves that must be quite painful arranging and re-arranging her legs, trying to get up, falling. We really feel her pain. She looks at us with disbelief at what her body is doing, and gauging audience reaction,


In one section, a woman literally jabs her hand into her partner's mouth, forcibly trying to shape it into a smile.


The music varies and is astutely selected, creating moods expressed in the segments. In many tunes the lyrics are very relevant.


The tempo varies. There are quiet scenes, some in slow motion, that evoke sadness and emptiness. There is a poetic feeling to these moments, many of them dimly lit.


The minimalist set design—an empty stage with only occasional dropped silks and trapeze—conveys loneliness and isolation, and creates powerful contrast with the performers’ human forms.


Humans is a highly entertaining and very gripping production rife with humour that conveys individuals reaching out in desperation to bond with each other rather than be alone. Creating building blocks in their effort to survive. The choreography has a mathematical, geometric feel to it.