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Chaos in the ring: ‘Bianco’ circus show is a thrilling mess

for Brooklyn Paper
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Be prepared to be unprepared for the experience of “Bianco,” the current presentation of the NoFit State Circus, now ensconced in Dumbo in a run sponsored by St. Ann’s Warehouse. Little is conventional or traditional in this high-energy two-hour spectacle, which brings the aesthetics of punk to the circus ring with exhilarating, if unsettling, results.

The disorientation begins minutes before show time, when one discovers an absence of chairs, risers, or even a designated audience area. The whole arena is “standing room,” with patrons perpetually herded back and forth like goats. The atmosphere of a mosh pit prevails, which befits the live score, which plows through styles from surf to world music with the restlessness of an insomniac flipping through radio channels.

The show’s opening image is another shock, with five performers hoisted into the air upside down by their ankles. The visual effect calls to mind a meat locker full of serial killer victims. It is the opposite of what one expects from an aerial show, which tends to be stately stately, graceful and elegiac. Here, the aesthetics are frenetic and jagged.

An ensemble of youthful acrobats fling themselves on, around and against a set of industrial structures: catwalks, shark cages, ladders, towers, struts, and beams. These pieces are constantly being broken apart, swung around, and reassembled by the cast with apparent reckless abandon. It is like watching an amusement park ride that has run amok — thrilling in its way, but also nerve-wracking.

The bulk of the show is aerial, taking place on ropes, trapeze swings, bungee cords, and bolts of fabric suspended above. The proceedings in the sky are just as chaotic as those on the ground. The tempo is fast, and with speed comes a certain quality of anarchy. A violent sloppiness prevails: A tightrope walker hops and flails. Jugglers cheerfully flub their tricks. There is a lot of scrambling up and down ladders, with suspended performers attached to confederates by means of cantilevered wires, whose motions cause the pair of them to bounce upward and downward like out-of-control elevators.

What NoFit lacks in polish and perfection, it makes up for in freshness, spontaneity, and danger. And though the show has no story, it has its own poetry — for what is the spectacle of people being buffeted around by machinery but a metaphor for the modern condition?

“Bianco” behind St. Ann’s Warehouse [45 Water St. at New Dock Street in Dumbo, (718) 254–8779, www.nofitstate.org]. Through May 29, Tue–Fri, 7 pm; Sat, 6:30 pm; Sun, 2 pm and 8:30 pm. $35.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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