If it wasn’t for the two ropes hanging above her head – rigged as double cloud swings – I wouldn’t have imagined Lucie N’Duhirahe to be an aerialist. She does look very strong – but more like a lady one shouldn’t be messing with, because she stands very firmly on the ground. But not now: running up and down the stage, fretting and stressing, she is waiting for her partner who is late for their show. The audience is anxious, the music has started to play, the spotlights are on. Lucie tries to smile through her somewhat clumsy choreography, pretending everything is fine, nothing is missing. And then she comes, Francesca Hyde, quite late, very out of breath, making excuses and talking about some gorgeous man she has met. She also doesn’t have the typical muscular, androginous, lean body of an aerialist woman. Maybe those ropes aren’t meant for aerials after all, maybe they are just some not yet discernible stage equipment?
Francesca not only is late for the show – she also has forgotten to bring their props. So they have to improvise. And they do – all the while quarrelling about that man, and other things, and other men, e.g. men in the audience.
So a very dynamic, funny and spontaneous show starts evolving – with inclusion of the audience, who have to decide what tricks should be performed and in what kind of style – very humorously prepared improv theater.
I have met Collectif and then… at the first Fun Fatale Festival in Prague, where we have been performing ever since (every year we try to offer something new, just to be part of that wonderful festival again!!!). This spring, at the fourth edition of this festival for contemporary circus, we toured together – I with my Kafka aerial theater, and they with their aerial show We Do Love Little Kitten. The festival features small forms of contemporary circus – solos, duets and works-in-progress – created by women.
The two aerialists, who graduated at Circus Space in 2009, premiered their We Do Love Little Kitten two years earlier – also at Fun Fatale. They specialize in doubles cloud swing, with N’Duhirahe being the main catcher. Their aerial style is rough and surprising, oszillating from crude muscular work to effortless levitation, from pain to fun and laughter.
The entire show is built around their aerial doubles work on the two cloud swings, which they use as cloud swings and nothing else. But their very clownesque and vocal performance while flying, beating, dropping and catching creates a multilayered story that makes us want to get to know their stories very much. These stories are improvised and different each time. The aerial choreographies are not. They are the same at every performance – just the order changes according to the wishes of the audience or by chance. The grand finale is their signature trick, Lucie catching Fran by her hair.
Having seen their performance quite often – and having enjoyed it each time, I have been suspecting for some time now, that their choice to improvise is their easy choice. Energetic, spontaneous and open-hearted women that they are, it comes naturally to them to just flow and be in the now. So they sometimes miss beautiful or powerful moments they create on stage, moments they could be exploring to add more layers and depth to their show. Instead they choose to forget after each performance, relying on their momentary ideas. Luckily they seem to have enough.