Acrobatic 'Aeros' takes fanciful flight in Royce
Gravity-defying, imaginative show features gymnasts full of energy
Wednesday, January 17, 2001
UCLA Performing Arts
"Aeros" performers take the Royce Hall stage Jan. 25-28.
By Chris Young
Daily Bruin Contributor

"Aeros" brought flight to almost a thousand people at Royce Hall on Saturday. The audience experienced the vicarious thrill through the performers onstage, in the world premier of "Aeros," a new development in performing art.

World-class athletes teamed up with choreographers and the creators of "STOMP" to produce "Aeros," an amazing journey into surreal worlds and temporary weightlessness. The performers experienced flight for most of the show, defying gravity again and again in sketches of incredible physical virtuosity and prowess.

"Aeros" is the first performing arts project using a national gymnastics team; it features athletes from the National Sports and Aerobics Gymnastics Team of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation.

There is something beautiful in "Aeros" about the human body suspended in air, challenging gravity's will to return to earth. Whether it is hanging from the ceiling on a pair of rings or leaping into the air and executing a number of twists and turns, the members of "Aeros" turn their acrobatics into an amazing spectacle.

Great set designs and props in "Aeros" transport the observer into distant lands and surreal worlds. In one sketch, it appears that radioactive headless humanoid forms are walking stilt-like contraptions across a pitch-black landscape in a state of perplexity and confusion. In reality, they are Day-Glo people walking upside-down on their hands.

In another example, the curtain parts to show an apparition, a giant head that slowly turns and pulsates with an inner energy. Sometimes it is grotesque and sometimes it is wondrous.

"Aeros" sprinkles subtle humor throughout, lending another dimension to the performance; silent humor in this case is more powerful than spoken humor. One recurring example is a man brandishing a rose chasing after a woman who seems more annoyed than surprised at his gift. Half-running and half-cartwheeling around the stage, he finally catches up to her and offers her the rose. She smiles, takes it and flips him onto the ground like a rag doll.

Another humorous example is a group of four men and their silent one-upmanship. One time they must share two stools among all of them, and one of the stools is apparently more appealing than the other. Part of the fun is that they take the competition completely seriously, so embroiled in outdoing the others in skill that they don't realize how trivial the struggle is.

One occasional problem throughout the performance is that the performers, while incredible athletes and acrobats, are not necessarily dancers as well. They execute jumps, leaps, and spins with incredible ease, but occasionally one can see they are not trained in dance.

Notably, in one act, a man and a woman engage in a slow-motion dance where she twists and bends her body around his, and he passes her body around his own like a pretzel. Although they expertly contort around each other, sharing an amazing physical presence, the act seems emotionally lifeless. There could be much more substance underneath the surface, but they only seem to be going through the motions.

Also, during a couple of large floor aerobatics, there are so many performers onstage leaping and spinning around each other, the scene becomes confusing and circus-like. They could probably achieve the same artistic feeling using less onstage action.

Altogether, "Aeros" conjures up amazing images and almost impossible flying acts throughout the show. What the performers sometimes lack in artistic rhythm, they make up in energy and sheer gravity-defying precision. As long as you keep in mind that these are gymnasts performing things they don't normally do, the show is stunning.