For 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures, a ballet/juggling mash-up fresh from the Fringe (where punters queued round the block) world-renowned Gandini tosses live juggling into the midst of contemporary ballet. The resulting explosion includes rhythmic vocalisations, spoken word, comedy, idiocy and spectacular combination assemblies of dance and manipulation. The piece is wittily choreographed by Ludovic Ondiviela, and set to an original composition (bare, emotive, highly structured) by Nimrod Borenstein. The ferocious ticking of a metronome assembles the performers; limbs and balls cut the light, like upraised hands at a concert, tracing arcs and angles. The jugglers and dancers carve patterns in the dark space, creating kaleidoscopic patterns, light and haze capturing ephemeral geometries that are instantly lost in the finesse of the moment.
The single act is presented circus-style; longer acts spaced out with clownish interludes, including world-renowned juggler Sean Gandini’s take on the seven ball trick – here improved by a chorus of haughty, point-stamping, impatient ballerinas demanding more-more-more-more! They get it; the dizzying dances at times resemble a complex playground game, a skills swap at a professional’s retreat, an attempt to unlock a mathematical pattern. Use of practice calls, annotation and spoken steps keeps the seams of the show clearly in view – actors’ commentary and director’s notes come in explanatory/entertaining asides directed at the audience. The formalised structures of ballet and juggling are threaded through with humour – in-jokes for ballet buffs and juggling aficionados, but also simple, relatable laughs and cross-cultural banter. That awkward intersection of skills leaves jugglers forcing static hips into twirls, dancers intercepting balls to show off primitive juggling skills; but this curiously utopian circus skills standoff never fails to be quite different, persistently spectacular, and shockingly precise – while still finding time for misplaced balls, flashed pants, snippy exchanges and snappy comebacks.