Anthropic Traces, presented by Balancing on the Edge, in association with A Girl in the Sky Productions and Thin Edge New Music Collective, is an impressive technical and artistic achievement teeming with well-integrated multi-media spectacle. It is introduced as a call to action to address our climate crisis. This aspect of the work isn’t easy to track and so this explicit statement of intent does help the audience interpret and unpack the experience.
We open on a frantic, surreal airport scene. There’s some effective clowning as masked people collide in the throes of travel chaos. Amidst all the luggage and boarding announcements, an elderly couple is pulled off to the side for a customs interrogation that never comes. Through the rest of the show, they wait, sweaty and nervous, as a digital clock above them gradually becomes a distorted, fun-house caricature of time itself.
To accompany the stylized performance, on-stage musicians provide an aural landscape that is, for the most part, quite unsettling. Frequently atonal and dissonant, these compositions foster an underlying tension and foreboding.
This fraught atmosphere is sustained even throughout the more upbeat, whimsical segments. During one particularly beautiful sequence, two figures stack and re-arrange cubes in a thrilling display of body contortions and acrobatics. As they negotiate the precarious, temporary structures, their struggle to find some human connection is both touching and stressful.
The intricate, aerial choreography is stunning. There are a variety of physical objects of varying textures that provide intriguing sound effects and offer varied surfaces for projected images—some abstract, some representational.
Though my attention ebbed and flowed, the overall effect is fanciful and evocative. Particularly dazzling is an underwater fantasy that slowly turns traumatic as a sea creature becomes entangled in cascading sheets of plastic.
With the familiar trappings of a circus, Anthropic Traces is a majestic collaborative achievement. It is mythic, grandiose and thematically expansive.