Circus is constantly re-inventing itself, riffing on themes and re-contextualizing classic acts. Le Aerial contains many variations on traditional aerial apparati. The silks and trapeze make an appearance, and so does a big red net, a pair of chain link straps and a plethora of sculptural contraptions – all of which create platforms for dazzling acrobatic maneuvers metres off the ground. 

Whether in solo, duo or even a quartet of performers (each on an aerial silk, manipulating their individual equipment to a unison choreography), the individual aerial acts across the board are top-notch. 

None more so than that of Alex Caulfield, an ex-competitive gymnast most recently with Cirque du Soleil whose routine on two gymnastic rings defies belief. His body lever positions, balances and straight arm strength are exquisite, as is the unified manipulation of the rings and his spinning body to create continuous centrifugal force. He’s equally adroit at balancing on his head on a trapeze and breakdancing in other moments of the show. 

Four females – Olivia Baker, Peri Kowal, Natalie Bond and Lauren Bird – feature in all the other aerial acts, each of which individually stand out for a unique feature, whether that’s the contraption itself, seamless doubles work or particularly tricky acrobatics. The magic dissipates though when action is floor bound, as entries and exits (with performers taking down and carrying off their own equipment) lose the seamlessness of the physicality in the air. 

Interspersing the aerial work is whip-sharp dance couple Craig Monley and Sriani Argaet, who are as breathtaking on the floor as the acrobats are in the air. Their ridiculously fast-rhythmed numbers are ballroom dance on speed, with crazy flourishes, daredevil lifts and blink-and-you-miss-them tricks. The partnership is tight, with a springy, push-pull tension dynamic in each lightning-quick swivel of the hips and switch of direction. 

Singer Mike Snell has the challenging task of hyping up the audience and linking the various elements together, going so far as integrating himself into Caulfield’s trapeze act. His live vocals (across everything from interpretations of Nina Simone to Tears for Fears) accompany many of the acts. 

When all performers are together on stage, top and tail of the show, their energies and intentions bump against each other rather than gel, despite Snell’s best crowd interaction.

The excitement of aerial, like most circus modalities, is about short spectacular bursts of extraordinary artistry focused on a particular piece of equipment. While Le Aerial is not a cohesively realised entire theatre show, the bite-sized amazingness of the individual acts make it worth a visit.

Event details

Aerial Artists Australia presents
Le Aerial

Venue: Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 3 – 7 May 2023
Tickets: $120 – $69
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

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