Cirque Mechanics premieres Pedal Punk Sunday in Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — Let’s start with what Cirque Mechanics is not.
The modern-day circus isn’t the Ringling Bros. “Greatest Show on Earth”; the group doesn’t roll into town on a train with lions and elephants in tow. Nor is it Cirque du Soleil, set in a fantasyland.
Instead, the group, led by Boston native and former BMX freestyle competitor Chris Lashua, has a decidedly industrial bent, with mechanical wonders and a focus on how acrobats interact with the machines at the center.
Think gears, cranks and levers; imagine opening up the front of a clock and watching the inner workings.
Although inspired by contemporary circus, Cirque Mechanics finds its roots in the mechanical. And it’s set in a real — albeit fictional — time and place.
“It’s a different world, where things are man-powered,” said Lashua, the group’s founder and director. “Our show is based on real feelings, in a place grounded with real things.”
“Pedal Punk” draws inspiration from steam punk culture, where a post-apocalyptic world of machines is powered by steam. The “steam” power comes from the acrobatic wizardry of its 10-person company of roustabouts.
ONE BIG BIKE
At the center of Cirque Mechanics newest show, “Pedal Punk,” which premieres Sunday night in Beaver Creek, is a towering, 22-foot Gantry bike the group designed and built themselves, originally for a festival in Toronto.
The giant bike moves around the stage with a quirky ensemble of high-flying unicyclists, swinging acrobats, soaring pole climbers and floating trapeze artists.
“This pedal-driven circus contraption lives on stage,” he said. “It allows us to perform circus in a different way; it allows for a relationship to be demonstrated between a machine and a person.”
The setting is a bike shop — “but it’s not like any bike shop you’ve ever gone into,” Lashua said. “Our approach to circus, in general, is a bit less conventional than you’re used to.”
Bicycle geeks — which Lashua professes to be — will especially dig the show. There’s a bicycle parade with different shapes and sizes of bikes. There’s even a penny farthing, an antique bike with a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel. You may have seen sepia-toned photos of the bikes, with men wearing caps and breeches perched atop the unwieldy-looking two-wheelers. The penny farthing was actually the precursor to the unicycle, Lashua said. Speaking of unicycles, expect a “unicycle duo” in the show.
There’s also a solo BMX piece, with a trick bicycle routine in the show, not surprising considering Lashua’s history with the sport.
“It was a logical choice for a show based on pedaling, to have a BMX component,” Lashua said, “to bring in something that was part of my life for every waking moment for a good part of my life. To take what I know about BMX and pull it into a theatrical construct is very cool, very satisfying.”
ENGINEERING A SHOW
The company has been in Beaver Creek since Monday, working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day to finish the show, Lashua said.
The group isn’t new to the valley — Cirque Mechanics has performed at the Vilar Center twice before to a full house.
“The creators of Cirque Mechanics are engineers and visionaries,” said Kris Sabel, the Vilar Center’s executive director. “The reason that they are called ‘mechanics’ is that they conceptualize the mechanics of how something works, and then they create a show around it. It’s similar to the concept of ‘Which comes first — the lyrics or the melody?’ In the case of their new production, it’s the mechanics of the bike pedal and gears, and that was the starting point of the entire show.”
It’s the first time there’s been a cirque-type show on the Underground Sound lineup.
“The idea of ‘discovery’ within the series matches up perfectly with Cirque Mechanics’ artistic creation, and we are very excited to be hosting them in a part of their creative process resulting in this world premiere performance,” Sabel said.
The group will return again this winter for shows taking place between Christmas and New Years, Lashua said, but Sunday’s performance is a chance to see the group at a very reasonable ticket price and to be the first to witness “Pedal Punk.”
When it comes to modern circus, audiences often get to experience multiple shows in one, and “Pedal Punk” is no different.
“We want to see theater, we want to be transformed, we want to see something loud, something that’s odd, that’s fantastical, and we also want to connect with each artist and care about their story,” Lashua said. “(We) want to be transported for an hour and a half by something that makes us feel hopeful and inspired.”
And that, for certain, is what Cirque Mechanics is.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2984. Follow her on Twitter @caramieschnell.