BETHESDA — At Strathmore, Gandini Juggling, a British juggling group held a performance titled “4x4: Ephemeral Architectures.”
Juggling and ballet, two traditionally separate art forms, were combined to create a performance of both balance and precision as a live orchestral ensemble timed music to each movement.
The performance was unique for its implementation of sound into each act. The first act began with performers slapping their thighs as sighs and breathing were added, relaxing the audience into an hour-long performance that would be filled with babbling and vocal sounds to punctuate juggling rings and balls.
The sounds were strangely apt for the humorous performance, which was funny for its surreal combination of sounds and gestures. The combined juggling, ballet, sounds, and music had a theme of repetition and variation, breaking audience expectations of what would happen next.
An example of Gandini’s surreal humor is when a juggler is forced to perform for two ballerinas telling him not to look away as they tip-toe next to him, making approving sounds and clapping each time he performs for them.
The fluidity of the impressive juggling, coupled with ballet, made each performer seem like they were a part of a well-oiled machine. In fact, there were moments when someone would pose if there existed a series of correct actions, “a modus operandi that leads to harmony” as other performers repeated individual motions that created the illusion of machinery.
Among the impressive acts was when jugglers rotated pins on the floor so that they orbited around them like ripples on water as ballerinas leaned back on them, making graceful, wing-like gestures. The combined movement added up to an illusion of unbroken, fluid motion that was both serene and entrancing.
The barely coherent babbling made by the performers was a key part of the performance, which was carefully timed so that jugglers and ballerinas would layer their voices over each other, creating a type of musical repetition. A common part of the performance would be to call out the color of a ball being thrown up as other performers called out other phrases, creating vocal harmony.
Meanwhile, other jugglers would perform in the background, accomplishing impressive feats of ballet as they juggled balls and balanced pins on their shoulders.
A distinctive characteristic of “4x4” was the experience gained from the combined effects of the performers acting in unison rather than focusing in on any one impressive feat. In this way, Gandini subconsciously posed ideas to the audience that intrigued and stirred thinking in the viewer.
In this sense, each act was a small vignette based on the humorous interactions between each actor that both broke expectations and created pleasurable repetitions interspersed with variation.
The performance ended with the jugglers and ballerinas slowly break-dancing across the floor of the stage, moving and aligning colored balls until unexpectedly, the balls are perfectly ordered into a pattern of color and symmetry.
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