Last Saturday, our family had the pleasure of seeing Les 7 Doights de la Main, a nouveau circus performance collaborative from Montreal, perform their piece PSY. The company name translates to "the seven fingers of the hand" (evoking the French idiom of the five fingers of the hand working together toward a unified goal) and refers to the seven founding members and their unique creative backgrounds that fit together to accomplish a larger artistic collaboration. The result was a thrilling performance of quirky, innovative and high energy talent that combined circus arts, theatre and dance. 

The larger narrative of PSY is therapy, individual neurosis and the psyche as creative juice for life. Each performer engaged in acts of physical feat that represented the torment that their characters felt internally. As I watched awed by each performer's kinesthetic prowess, I meditated on the comfortable predictability of gravity, contrasted with the seemingly outright defiance of its force by the amazing performers. The juggler's pin is tossed and then rhythmically caught over and over, our mind's eye tracing its path through the air. There is a thrill in watching the juggler because we instantly become familiar with the sequential pattern of the tumbling pins, while simultaneously fearing that a pin will not be caught and our fascinated trance broken. The arc that the aerialist makes while pumping her swinging trapeze soothes like a pendulum and makes your heart race as the apex reaches dizzyingly heights. The greatest delight was watching a couple seemingly flout the laws of physics by clinging to an apparatus, the Chinese pole—basically a fireman's pole that stretched skyward two stories above the stage floor. Their feet would scamper up the bar as if it were a notched tree trunk, then at ridiculous heights their limbs would wind and spin around the pole, stopping to elongate their bodies away from this center line. As the couple spoons as if in bed, but stacked one body atop the other, we are lulled into thinking this is easy, when they suddenly loosen their grip and drop from two stories high to inches from the floor. It is spellbinding to see these performers surrender to gravity's pull. How can one be so brave as to let themselves plummet towards the earth? 

PSY was about psychology and the mind's yield to forces beyond us. As I watched, I wondered about the lure of falling. We, as humans, may fear the descent but ultimately we want to fall, to feel. We seek out thrill rides where we are protected by metal enclosures so we can safely replicate this sensation without any daring. When we dream in our sleep that we are losing our balance, toppling down, our minds awaken to catch us before we hit. We jolt awake stunned by our instinctive muscles contracting. We feel tense, but initially the fall felt weightless and a little intoxicating. If we didn't think we would crash, would we have become so panicked? 

We crave falling in love, drawn to another who reciprocates our feelings, and for that brief time we feel so accepted that we can be giddy and silly and uncaring of the outcome, simply drunk with life. I wonder if what we aren't yearning for is that sensation of abandon. These performers embraced this desire, yielding to gravity and confident that their bodies would catch them right side up. We enjoy watching this physical and metaphorical spectacle of arcing ebbs and flows because it tantalizes that wonder in our soul. We want to fall. We want to be that open; we want to no longer care about being judged, by ourselves, by others, or by perceived limitations. We want to skip for joy and to hell with constraints and pessimism. We want to savor whole-heartedness. It is up to us as individuals to perch at the highest heights, leap off believing that we can enjoy the tumult, sometimes cascading, sometimes falling faster than we like, but trusting that our landings will offer enough momentum to arc us back to the summit for another breathless dance.
 


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