The beauty of watching live performance lies in bearing witness to art unfolding right before your eyes. And "Urbanopolis," Suspended Cirque's latest site-specific, aerial creation at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO delivers just that. The show is a low-budget indie Cirque du Soleil from its burlesque chick acrobats to its hula hoop skirts, to the shreds of newspaper dangling from a hoop descended from the ceiling, proving that heart and creativity trump dollars and glitz every time.
Not that "Urbanopolis" doesn't contain its fair share of glamour in its tightly wound four acts. The production is more like a sex bomb who doesn't have to try too hard secure in the knowledge that she's the hottest girl in the room. This confident and gifted troupe of aerialists and musicians breezily have a blast making the audience of mostly bar tab-happy hipsters - seated both in the balcony above and in red booths on either side of the walkway that divides Galapagos Art Space's signature ponds - giddy as little kids at the circus. Right from the opening of Act One a metaphorical striptease begins, with the bodies of three female "Serpents" (the multi-talented Michelle Dortignac, Angela Jones and Kristin Olness) writhing and their hair flailing to a heavy metal groove in an air-born interpretive dance on rigging high above the walkway. What's slowly uncovered is a magic world in which flying acrobats in sleek red, green and blue reptilian bodysuits meld seamlessly with an eclectic mix of music emanating from live piano and violin below, and a DJ booth in the balcony above. From evocative red and blue lighting, to candles and glow-in-the-dark yoyos, from well-placed glitter to pink and blue wigs, the magic of theater is organically revealed. And its sense of fun and play, the company's sheer exuberance is contagious. (Even the DJ watched in awe during Act Two's slapstick routine in midair, not to mention at the sultry duo on a rope whose four legs would have been right at home wrapped around a stripper pole).
By the time the third act rolled around, with Joshua Dean's Pan, as delightfully wicked as Fosse's Emcee, performing a Chaplin-esque number with balloons (appropriately titled "Playtime") and its "Bacchanalian Decadence" set to a sampling of "Funkytown," the friend I'd brought along could no longer curb his enthusiasm. "This is like Fischerspooner and Cirque du Soleil inside "Cabaret"!" he shouted. But the most hypnotically breathtaking scene of all was yet to come, when the vivid costumes and lighting and toned bodies transformed into a single entity - a human chandelier - on a spinning hoop halfway above the stage, like a children's toy come alive. (Or like that old "Twilight Zone" episode in which the contents of the toy box becomes animated - only this time in Technicolor.) Sure, we all know that everything Fred did, Ginger did backwards and in high heels. But everything Martha Graham's protégés have done Suspended Cirque is doing in midair. Dance only gives the illusion of flight. "Urbanopolis" is the real deal.