CirqueContemporaryDanceNorth WestPhysical TheatreReview

Gandini Juggling: Sigma – The Lowry, Salford

Director: Sean Gandini

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

Last seen at The Lowry with Smashed, a piece about lost love and quaint afternoon tea, Gandini Juggling return with another one of their many shows. Sigma was developed and showcased at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival and has become part of the company’s repertoire of shows that tour around the world.

Gandini Juggling has been around as a company for over twenty-five years and has always fused what may be considered a circus art with the performance elements of theatre and dance. In Sigma, the mix is with South Asian dance, more specifically Bharatanatyam dance. The all-female company consists of dancers Seeta Patel (also choreographer) and Indu Panday with jugglers Kati Yla-Hokkaka (co-founder of Gandini Juggling) and Kim Huynh. What is so distinctive about a Gandini show,  is their quirkiness. The performers bring personalities to the stage and allow themselves a little fun breaking down any ‘formal’ conventions an audience may hold. At the start of Sigma, the performers, with wry smiles, convey their hopes for what they want the show to be – perhaps a repeat of an exercise they did on the first day of the development process. “I hope this show will not be pretentious” one performer expresses, perhaps knowing full well the difficulty of this in a juggling/dance show. Likewise, at the end, the performers confess what they wish the show would have been. A refreshing and quirky bookending.

In between the show is Gandini’s usual technical precision. The hour show, split into twelve segments, ironically runs like clockwork. At several points in the show, a performer will divulge a little autobiographical information coupled with the time the show has been running. With juggling balls soaring in unison this is a show that is founded on micro-precision timing. The company play with screens – the occasional hand or ball stretching out from behind. But soon the screens reverse to reveal mirrors and in a segment entitled Synchronicity, the illusion of the everlasting distance is played with as well as fun childlike tricks. At the heart of this piece, though, are the rhythm, look and sound of South Asian dance. Dancers Patel and Panday dance, stamp and recite rhythmical words as jugglers Yla-Hokkaka and Kuynh interweave their magical talent with the music created. The result is hypnotic and beautiful as dancer and juggler work in symbiosis, arms crossing creating imagery akin to Indian god Ganesh.

As with all shows of this nature, the challenge is always for the concept to justify the creation of a full-length piece. With a running time of just under an hour Sigma is a show that is made to fit well into the slot of festivals. However, the shift from this to a whole evening’s entertainment is tricky.

An enjoyable, quirky, and hypnotic piece that will always leave you wanting to throw the contents of the fruit bowl up in the air.

Reviewed 27 November 2018 | Image: Contributed

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