Fringe preview: Gandini Juggling – 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures

This article is from 2015

Fringe preview: Gandini Juggling – 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures

Credit: Arnaud Stephenson

Master jugglers team up with ex-Royal Ballet dancer turned choreographer in a mingling of highly-trained bodies and flying objects

Sean Gandini thinks so far outside the standard circus box that he and his Gandini Juggling partner Kati Ylä-Hokkala practically reinvent the art form with each new show. Their previous production Smashed – an attempt to fuse juggling with the work of iconic dance-theatre guru Pina Bausch – was (pun intended) a smash-hit both in Edinburgh and abroad. Now this British-based company is back on the Fringe with 4x4: Ephemeral Architectures, and it’s a thing of quirky beauty and great wit.

To call this fizzy collaboration between two master jugglers and the ex-Royal Ballet dancer turned choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela a mash-up doesn’t seem quite right. The 65-minute performance is both a highly refined experiment and a great deal of fun. Among its many pleasures is not just the ingenious way in which the skills of four ballet dancers and as many jugglers (two of each sex from each discipline) are juxtaposed and merged.

During the last week of its Edinburgh run, 4x4 is also a live concert, with the game cast’s plethora of mathematically precise patterns being accompanied by a suite of Nimrod Borenstein’s literally plucky, piercing or lyrical musical compositions played by the five-piece chamber ensemble Camerata Alma Viva. The sum of these many parts is a splendid blend of talents imbued with both elegance and humour.

But isn’t this mingling of highly-trained bodies in motion and a battery of flying objects (including coloured balls, pins and rings) more than a mite odd? Gandini doesn’t think so. ‘The main and obvious similarity between juggling and ballet is that both disciplines work in time and space and are choreographic in nature,’ he says. ‘When done well both are rigorous and exact. The differences are that juggling is more enslaved to gravity, because you can’t change the velocity of falling objects. The other difference – which I find fascinating, and tried to address in the piece itself – is ballet's sense of beauty in its own classicism and rules. Juggling doesn’t have the same sense of historical classicism. Or, if it does, it wouldn’t work well in conjunction with ballet. So we had to invent a juggling classicism.’

The dancers’ bodies are the main vehicle of expression in 4x4. The show’s kick is how bodies and juggled objects, however fleetingly, interact. An ongoing and ever-changing stream of encounters is sometimes supplemented by spoken text (from manifesto-like statements to pop slang) and other, self-generated sound (especially of an animal nature).

‘It’s rather difficult to perform because it involves a lot of complex counting whilst dancing or juggling, and small mistakes can be quite disastrous,’ continues Gandini. ‘For the dancers, the challenge is not to get hit; and also some of them weren’t used to speaking on stage. For the jugglers, some of Ludo's movement is a new vocabulary for them and therefore quite challenging.’

Ultimately, there’s so much to observe, hear and absorb that 4x4 easily merits more than a single viewing. Luckily, most Gandini Juggling productions enjoy a long and international shelf life. ‘The piece is just beginning its global journey, but already we have about 100 dates booked for the next two years,’ states Gandini. ‘To us, the show feels like a Michelin-starred restaurant: it might sometimes lose money, but hopefully in the long run it will repay itself.’

4x4 Ephemeral Architectures, Assembly George Square Theatre, George Square, 0131 623 3030, 8–30 Aug (not 12, 18, 25), 5.30pm, £14–£16 (£12–£14). Previews 5–7 Aug, £10.

Gandini Juggling: 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures

  • 5 stars

Four jugglers and four ballet dancers collaborate on a contemporary dance piece.