Urban sports circus at Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Review from: 360 Allstars, by Onyx Productions at Assembly George Square Gardens; 16th August 2019

Elements of Freestyle, by Ish Dance Collective at The Pleasance EICC; 16th August 2019

Both these shows are a great way for circus to be seen as more current than often thought of in popular imagination, involving new kinds of skills and using music effectively for them. Both shows are very different from each other, but it is clear they are both going for the same vibe and audience bracket. They are both also their venue’s ‘big cool circus’ of the year. So, without pitting them against each other, this table looks to inform about each show…

A table that compares elements of the two productions.
Lots of dancing = both yes. 360 has break dancing and backflips aplenty, Elements had contemporary dance mixed with break, and parkour skills blended in
Basketball skills = both	yes. In 360 the best act in the show, in Elements high skill and well blended with other acts
BMX tricks = both	yes. In 360 engaging performance and hugely enjoyed by all ages, in Elements the best act in the show
Live music = both yes. In 360 amazing rhymes and beatboxing, as well as mixing/dj-ing on stage, in Elements electric violin and cello create sometimes moody, sometimes exhilarating sounds, exceptionally fitting for the show
Big group acts = both yes. In 360, halfway and at the end group skill shares help keep the show on a ‘cypher’ feel, in Elements the stage bustles with performers constantly, creating a real world feel
High skills, exciting acts, and tight finish = both yes. In 360 time flies as Cyr wheel, dance, acrobatics, BMX and basketball keep the energy high throughout, in Elements a never empty stage ensures the audience won’t ever blink in case they miss something! 
Standing ovation = both yes. In 360 excellent use of screens on stage adds to the acts, in Elements an amazing multipurpose stage gives each act its own ‘space’
Humour and playfulness = in 360 yes, jokes and funny dance moves give this show a light hearted and classic circus feel in many ways. In Elements	no - often feels like they are performing for their own pleasure, whether the audience is there or not
Detail and depth = in 360 no - very up front about being about entertainment first and foremost. In Elements	 yes, the music and light choices help give acts gravitas, less showing-off, and more artistic expression
An exciting way to introduce people to the skills and culture of the props and dance styles = both yes.	
In 360, video game style dance-off, spotlight introducing cypher concept and mc explaining hiphop, in Elements	 it feels like you’ve stumbled into a real skatepark and you’re watching a group of mates train their most impressive tricks!
Female circus performers = both	 no  with a link to caveat explained in body text below
(‘cypher’ or ‘cipher’ is a form of cyclical interchange in used among groups of rappers)

It is worth elaborating on the final point of having all male casts* in both shows. It is hard to think of another large scale circus show that has only men performing. It might give a slightly skewed impression that these dance styles or extreme spots/skills are only championed by men. Whilst not a bad point of each show in themselves, after watching ten other circuses in a week it is definitely something you notice. Maybe to encourage a larger female audience it would be good to have representation of their gender too. Perhaps that’s something the companies are working on.

*Annie Tangberg is the cellist during Elements of Freestyle, however I didn’t count the musicians as circus performers because they don’t enter the main stage and don’t perform tricks. However, she is a fantastic player and worth crediting!

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