Art Smitten

On Air

On by Circa – a stripped back homage to the art of acrobatics

Credit: Pia Johnson

I can’t imagine a common occurrence where someone one might enter university lecture theatre, take a seat, and proceed to see the stage light up with the intensity of an eight-strong group of acrobats, each of whom manage to steal your gaze in their own singular way throughout the show.

On by Circa is the new show by Circa Contemporary Circus which saw its world premiere at Monash University in Melbourne. The production strips back the traditional characteristics of circus performance that we know and becomes a fusion of the mundane and extraordinary. It leaves behind the aerial rigs and balance posts, and instead relies completely on the performers’ connections, the lighting by Paul Jackson, and the incredible sound design by Melbourne’s own Jethro Woodward. These elements together are effective in their design to capture the audience’s attention, to raise our heartrates and pull us between states of meditative reflection to edge-of-our-seat anticipation.

Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz blends acrobatic elements with contemporary dance to highlight the fundamentals of “giving and accepting another’s mass” (Circa). It is an exploration of how bodies connect with each other and the surfaces they touch, about the rejection and acceptance of each other’s bodies and ergo, their beings. The choreography seamlessly balances vigorous moments within the group as a whole and equally intimate duets that keep the pace of the show to a magnetic flow. We witness three-person-high human towers and performers being swung and thrown from one side of the stage to another in between incredible moments of balance and contemporary dance.

Woodward’s score adds another dimension, enhancing the high-energy moments with intense, sometimes jarring beats that complement the performers’ movements. The musical element works in almost perfect synchronicity with the lighting. Jackson uses white and blue to highlight the performers, bringing their dancing into a surreal clarity and along with the score, creates an almost magical, luminescent atmosphere.

To be clear, it is not just the tricks and flips that make this production great. It is the utter dedication to the craft that all those involved in the productions clearly have. The performers create an intimacy not only between themselves but with us as the audience. We have a want and a need for them to bare their closeness and physicality to us as we watch on, comfortably in our seats with eyes wide, as we witness this unique show unfold.


On by Circa will be showing next on the 13th and 14th of April at The Playhouse in the Darwin Entertainment Centre. For more information and to see more tour dates, click here.


Reviewed by Cristina Ulloa Sobarzo for Art Smitten