A gorgeous circus of real people, with an indie-rock soundtrack and impressive acts

This isn't the adrenaline-fueled, spandex-wearing, thrilling but ultimately faceless performance that Cirque du Soleil has been cranking out for more than 20 years. Traces has only five cast members, who share their real personalities through intimate confessions spoken into a microphone that swings around the stage. Four boys, old friends, trained for a decade at the Circus Center San Francisco, played hoops, and skateboarded together. Two years later they met Heloise, a sexy young circus girl from Paris, and now, after touring the four corners of the Earth, they've returned with a show that calmly redefines modern circus. On an impressive set that's part Brooklyn artist's loft, part junkyard clubhouse, these remarkably skilled performers keep things simple, acrobatic, and breathtaking. A hip indie-rock soundtrack — some of it played by the cast on a plywood piano — underscores such impressive (if traditional) acts as Chinese poles, aerial straps, and hoop-diving. Here they feel organic and new, but what defines the show are the more subdued moments: a standard basketball used as a dance partner, street skateboarding stunts gently choreographed to jazz violin, and a poetic wrestle with a lounge chair. While at times the pace idles, the sense of casualness, calm, and intimacy makes this achingly gorgeous performance rise to the top of the more than 100 circuses I've witnessed around the world. Nathaniel Eaton


Through Jan. 1, 2007, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon (at Bay), S.F. Tickets are $20-45; call 392-4400 or visit

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