Les Arts Sauts: The beauty of dancing, singing and playing music in the sky

Sky ballet or New Age circus? Whatever the artistic definition of French troupe Les Arts Sauts, this colorful group of 28 traveling acrobats, musicians and other collaborators are currently in Athens, finalizing details for their limited performances which begin tonight at the Military Park in Goudi. Organized by Adam Productions and Megafon Live Activities in collaboration with the Athens French Institute, Les Arts Sauts has come to the Greek capital to present its sensational production, «Kayassine,» thus marking the end of a highly successful global tour which took the energetic troupe to the USA, Australia, Morocco, Russia and other European countries. Following in the footsteps of troupes such as Cirque Eloize and Cirque du Soleil, Les Arts Sauts takes a fresh approach to the circus, one which involves impressive choreographies and stage direction, not to mention the music. What exactly does the troupe do? Fairy-like, but also athletic, it offers a journey into magic, where each artist brings his or her individual talents into play in the dazzling whole. Beginning with the trapeze, Les Arts Sauts has developed a performance of dance, music and song, all in midair, while an audience of 800 lies back on comfortable deck chairs, watching the action unwind under a specially built dome. This circus has nothing to with wild animal taming, but everything to do with the art of the trapeze, music, light and a gamut of emotions. For the entire hour and 10 minutes of its duration, «Kayassine» (meaning «circus» in Lao) becomes a vehicle for a study in artistic creation and aesthetics. Fear of vertigo? According to troupe members, people come to the show lured by the acrobatics and end up discovering the music. The singer helps to de-dramatize the fear of the acrobatics for the audience, while the artists need to be «grounded» in their art in order to develop in the air. The dome – which is not a regular fixture in the troupe’s productions but appropriate for «Kayassine» – was designed by German architect Hans-Walter Muller, while the production’s direction is by Herve Lelardoux with lighting by Benoit Baillard. The acrobat-dancers are accompanied by soprano Pascale Valenta and musicians Benoit Fleurey (cello), Patrice Wojciechowski (harp) and Christophe Lelarge (base). What is it like playing cello in midair? «It is not very difficult, what is difficult in music is the music,» said cellist Benoit Fleurey at a recent press conference. «The situation is ephemeral, though being suspended 25 meters above the ground is very impressive in the beginning.» The traveling troupe also shows a dimension of human adventure: Its members spend roughly nine months a year on the road; they do so accompanied by their families – as well as a teacher who undertakes the children’s education abroad. Furthermore, Les Arts Sauts has no managers, agents or any kind of bosses. This globetrotting mini-society offers equal pay to all, not to mention professional cross-overs – the acrobats are also the truckdrivers and technicians. Established in 1993, the idea for the company developed around the trapeze, and the desire of the artists involved to remove it from its conventional role in the circus. And though the acrobat-artists all have some kind of circus training (in circus schools in France and Hungary, for instance), no one stems from circus families. Initially made up of 12 members, Les Arts Sauts has reached 28, an expansion which came about naturally within the broader circus milieu. (As for the accompanying musicians, they do not have any formal circus training, having met the group in various places.) Though the members of the troupe are not directly involved with teaching their techniques to others (this is not a troupe policy but, rather, depends on individuals), sometimes the company is completely taken by what they encounter: In Laos, for instance, where they have traveled to seven times, they worked closely with local artists and developed a trapeze act. Throughout their long travels and world appearances, the success of the Les Arts Sauts troupe lies in the shared trust of its members. «It is important to pay attention to the others, to have confidence in them,» said acrobat Benoit Belleville at the press conference. «You must be able to look at them straight in the eyes.» Les Arts Sauts is performing at the Military Park in Goudi. Performances take place today through November 4, followed by Nov. 6, 8, 9-11, 13, 15-17. Shows start at 8.30 p.m. Prices are set at 35 euros (weekdays) and 45 euros (weekends). Tickets from Virgin Megastores, TicketHellas at 010.618.9300 and Box Office at 010.639.1122. For more information call 010.921.3310 or check out Athens 2004 volunteers: The French connection With French one of the three official languages of the Athens 2004 Olympics, the French Embassy, in collaboration with the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, has invited members of the local French-speaking community to a reception tomorrow. Scheduled to take place prior to the performance of Les Arts Sauts, at the Goudi Military Park’s restaurant French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert will present the French-speaking Volunteer Program for Athens 2004. For more information on the French-speaking Volunteer Program for Athens 2004 call 800.11.2004.1 (from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or send an e-mail to volunteers@athens2004. com.

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