In any given season the Victoria Theatre Association relishes the opportunity to present unique diversions outside the traditional box office realms of musical theater and straight plays. We have seen the Victoria deliver such crowd-pleasers as Blue Man Group, “Blast” and “Stomp” yet startlingly stumble with “Cirque Dreams” and the excruciating “Aluminum Show.” This time around the alternative bill of fare is “Traces,” a thinly conceived yet highly entertaining display of urban athleticism that breezily fulfills its purpose to astound, engage and surprise. Courtesy of the Premier Health Partners Broadway Series and held at the Victoria Theatre, “Traces,” the circus-inspired brainchild of Montreal-based dance troupe 7 Fingers, pits five dancers inside a bunker framed within the confines of a reality TV competition. Oddly, this premise isn’t clear at the outset and the presentation’s central theme addressing the importance of leaving indelible impressions or traces in one’s life is a surface level narrative device that could be greatly expounded. Still, the fantastic, flawlessly fluid blend of acrobatics and street elements, melded with charming snippets of personal statements from the dancers, creates a genuinely satisfying experience overall. Antoine Auger, Francisco Cruz, Devin Henderson, Genevieve Morin and Xia Zhengqi cohesively execute the clever, ingenious and jaw-dropping routines marvelously choreographed by directors Shana Carroll and Gyspy Snider. Whether vaulting into the air or scaling two large poles, this confident, personable, musically inclined quintet truly shines. In addition to a delightfully debonair skateboarding segment set to “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” a lively game of basketball and a dynamic finale involving a tower of rings, notable highlights include Auger and Morin’s striking pas de deux, Morin’s lovely aerial work reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil and Henderson’s applause-inducing mastery of a large hoop. Last week, theater critic Richard Zoglin of Time magazine placed “Traces” ninth among his Top 10 plays and musicals of 2011. Zoglin’s year-end choices can be puzzling (“The Little Mermaid” actually ranked among his favorites of 2008) but there’s no denying the immense appeal this show inherently provides. “Traces” continues through Dec. 18 at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Performances are Tuesday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. The production is performed in 85 minutes without intermission. The cast also includes Camille Legris and Tristan Nielsen. Tickets are $40-$83. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com
About Russell Florence, Jr.
Russell Florence, Jr. is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association and The Drama League. In addition to his role as arts and culture editor of Dayton City Paper and theater critic for Dayton City Paper and Impact Weekly, he served as a Dayton Daily News freelance writer and editorial page contributor. He has also written features for such theater publications as Spotlight Ohio and The Sondheim Review. Over the past 25 years, he has seen over 1,000 shows locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally encompassing New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Toronto, Madrid, and Rome among other destinations.