Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: Sequence 8

The names of the company and the show tell you nothing, but 7 Fingers' Sequence 8 is fantastic, one of the most memorable Live Arts/Fringe performances I've seen over the years.

Review: Sequence 8

The names of the company and the show tell you nothing, but 7 Fingers' Sequence 8 is fantastic, one of the most memorable Live Arts/Fringe performances I've seen over the years.

The show, which had its U.S. premiere Tuesday night at the Merriam Theater, seamlessly blends circus arts with modern dance and hip-hop in a family-friendly array of acrobatic feats reminiscent of Olympic gymnastics. All eight performers are clowns at times, but no one is creepy or annoying.

Set to music ranging from Tosca to the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Sequence 8 includes group dance sections with a heavy dose of aerial acrobatics; a Russian bar routine that's a cross between trampoline and balance beam; and performers who defy gravity juggling cigar boxes, on a trapeze, or by dashing up a Chinese pole.

What makes 7 Fingers - which hails from Montreal like the better known Cirque du Soleil and appeared in last year's Live Arts Festival with Traces - extra special is the intimacy and humanity of their show. The Merriam Theater is hardly a small space, but compared with a circus ring, it brings the audience closer and magnifies the details.

The simple costumes (mostly dance- and workout wear) and small mistakes only made the performance more believable and, therefore, more amazing. If a performer drops the boxes he is juggling or needs a second turn doing a somersault through a hoop because he knocked it down the first time (both happened Tuesday night), he seems more like a person with extraordinary talent than a freak of nature.

The house was packed Tuesday, but the show runs through Sunday. See it if you can.

Sequence 8 Through Sunday at the Merriam Theater. Tickets: $20-$55. Information: 215-413-1318 or

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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