When the word “circus” comes to mind, you may envision clowns, circus tents, elephants and elaborate costumes.
But think again. This time, imagine a circus without exotic creatures and where the performers are not nameless, faceless or hidden by flamboyant costumes and face paint.
From Feb. 28 through March 4, 7 Fingers will present “Traces” —an eclectic fusion of the modern circus anti-spectacle with traces of traditional circus elements — during a limited, one-week engagement at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.
After world tours of “Loft,” “Psy,” and “La Vie,” 7 Fingers brings “Traces,” one of the newest projects coming out of the troupe’s workshop at its headquarters in Montreal, a circus hub and home to world-famous Cirque du Soleil.
The 7 Fingers of the Hand Co. — whose name is a twist on a French idiom, “the five fingers of the hand,” used to describe distinct parts united tightly, moving in coordination toward one common goal — is notorious for rejecting the production qualities of standard circuses.
So, this time around, the company’s seven founding directors put their “fingers” to work and developed a modern circus production that would enhance how the audience could relate with the circus performers, who, historically, have been physically and socially isolated from onlookers and society as a whole.
“I just think they [7 Fingers] really wanted to cut down the boundaries and barriers between the audience members and the performers really making it clear to the audience members that we [the performers] are just like them,” said Bradley Henderson, who joined the cast back in 2005.
“Technically, the tricks in the show are as good as any other circus. It’s just more on a human level showing the audience we’re not superheroes, we’ve just been training for this for a very long time.”
In fact, “Traces” performers, including Henderson, who has been training for the circus since age 8, undergo years of rigorous training.
“This was the type of artist that 7 Fingers became attracted to,” Henderson said in a phone interview. “People that were multitalented that couldn’t just do one thing, but could survive on stage doing everything.”
Unlike classic circuses where an artist specializes in one talent, the young artists in “Traces” have mastered a multitude of specialties skills including: high-risk acrobatics, Chinese poles and hoops, parkours, Cyr wheel, teeter board, dance and street performing, which gives off an urban energy.
“The two directors, Gypsy Snider and Shana Carroll, knew us when we were younger, so they saw what we could do on the street,” Henderson said. “We all grew up in San Francisco. We were inner-city kids. Basically, we would play basketball, skateboard and they incorporated those two things into the show. We have a number in the show where we ride our skateboards and do a parody. It definitely has a street feel.”
Since its debut in 2005, “Traces” has continued to transform over the run. What used to be a five-man cast has grown to a robust group of seven — a number big enough to emphasize the ensemble elements, while highlighting each individual artist.
“The essence of the show stays the same,” Henderson said. “It’s still pretty crazy to see those seven performers throughout the 90 minutes showing everything they can do, because no one leaves the stage. As an audience member I feel like you really get a good sense of each person, because each character is (playing) themselves. They are not playing another role. So, when they (audiences) leave the show, they feel like they know us. We feel like we’ve left our ‘Traces’ on the audience.”
What we have at hand is a new, revamped circus. Henderson, who is in his 20s, believes that productions like “Traces” could revive circuses with new, younger audiences, while paying homage to the traditional circus model.
“Before, the traditional circus was accepted for what it was and now this new contemporary circus — that’s what a lot of people call it now — I feel it’s more up-to-date,” Henderson said. “It’s different; it’s not like one is better than the other. I just personally feel like if I were to have seen ‘Traces,’ not performing in it, I feel like I would be able to kind of relate.”
If You GoWhat: “Traces”
Where: Segerstrom Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
When: Feb. 28 till March 4
More information: For tickets, which start at $15, and show times, go to https://www.scfta.org or call (714) 556-2787.