The aerial arts

Aerial artists bring balance, agility and a sense of play to their performances with the Echo Theater Company.

Aerial artists bring balance, agility and a sense of play to their performances with the Echo Theater Company.

It’s rare that Lori and i attend live theater. Movies are more our thing. A break from the routine came Friday night, though, and it was a good thing.

We saw an evening of live performances centered around the aerial arts and physical theater — you know, trapeze, aerial dance, acrobatics — and left thoroughly entertained.

It was our first time at the Echo Theater, an intimate space seating about 100 people in Southeast Portland’s Hawthorne District. The performance was billed as “just play.” The evening’s theme was to redirect our adult sensibilities to a time when we were kids and we just played.

Physical movement, spontaneity, imagination. Together they define what it means to play.

From our second-row seats we had a great view of the 10 performers who entertained a mixed crowd of young and old (including several sets of young children, parents and grandparents) with choreographed and improv acts that had them swinging, swaying, jumping and gliding through the air.

I admired the physical attributes each one brought to the stage: strength, agility, balance, flexibility, grace. They made it look easy, which of course it was anything but. Two modern dance pieces in particular– one a duet, the other a trio — were amazing in how the performers moved fluidly from one pose or move to another.

There was whimsy, too, in the form of a two-man tap dance, a mock game show and opportunities for audience participation. Everyone was invited to play audience bingo by checking off things you’d noticed during the performance pieces — a purple balloon, a thin cane, a pirouette, a reference to Senegal — and claiming a small prize at the intermission. (Mine was a child-sized pack of playing cards.)

Echo Theater Company ensemble members Summer Olsson, Russ Stark and Yoji Hall rehearse a piece for "just play."

Echo Theater Company ensemble members Summer Olsson, Russ Stark and Yoji Hall rehearse a piece for “just play.”

All in all, it was a nice diversion from going to the movies. Especially when preceded by happy hour at a nearby bar-restaurant.

Better yet, it was a good reminder to lighten up and welcome the aspect of “play” into everyday life.

Tonight is the last performance: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Photographs: Echo Theater Company

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