Circolombia: Urban, Freerange, Brighton Festival

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The Independent Culture

Circolombia are a youth troupe from Cali in Colombia who met at the Circo para Todos ("Circus for All") school, a collective set up by the British ex-circus performer Felicity Simpson in order to get adolescents from deprived backgrounds off the streets.

As a result, graduates plucked from the slums of Cali have gone on to perform in such renowned circuses as the Ringling Brothers. There's no disputing the social achievements of the members of Circolombia, all of whom come with a very visible focus and drive, but they still have a lot to learn about entertainment.

Urban is a freestyle show combining high-energy acrobatics, circus stunts, dance and music designed to reflect the unruliness and intensity of life on the street. Thus, boys (there is just one female performer) sneer and pick fights with each other, dip in and out of improvised dancing, give each other high-fives or just crouch at the sidelines and watch. The show is played out to a soundtrack of hip-hop and Latin reggaeton, much of it composed by the performers.

If an atmosphere of chaos is what they were striving for, it's certainly what they've got. For much of the time, you don't know where to look first – at the breakdancing pair on the left, at the guys making sculptural two-man towers or the right, or at the figure in the background rapping into the mic while another next to him acts as a human beatbox. It's poorly paced, too. There's only so long you can look at people standing, albeit in a variety of poses, on other people's shoulders before tedium sets in.

There are odd moments of magic, such as the man standing with a huge metal hoop balanced on his forehead and upon which a young woman arranges herself into a series of arabesques. But other segments simply leave you baffled. The crew are at their most effective when keeping it simple. There's the seed of something good here, but Circolombia clearly aren't ready for the big top just yet.

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