Circolombia is in London to prove that the old idea of circus is dead in 2018. Forget other antiquated shows with frightened elephants and lion tamers, unskilled jugglers, phony fire-eaters and unfunny clowns. This year’s concept of circus is given a makeover with plenty of “oh-ah” acrobatics and death-defying stunts. Circolombia has always been different though. This is a family show that adds sexy singing to Latin carnival music and little hints of cabaret romance subtly woven into the aerial displays.
Roll up, roll up for the Bogota-based troupe, the latest main attraction at London’s annual Underbelly Festival Southbank, which is now in its 10th year. Circolombia’s season follows on from a run of dates by the ebullient Circus Abyssinia. The Ethiopian show was impressive enough as an opener, and both circuses have been lauded at the Edinburgh Fringe, though Circolombia is often in a different class.
There are acrobatics performed off a see-saw, with artists doing double somersaults and landing perfectly. There is also some aerial ballet from ropes suspended from the roof that is both stunning and poetic.
Julia Sanchez’s aerial cloud swing takes trapeze artistry to new heights. More than 20 feet above the stage, she is sometimes suspended just by one foot and then jumps in mid-air. Yes, she has a safety wire just in case, but this is scary stuff.
Best of all is “The Perch,” a stunt nobody else in the world does. For this, strongman Franco Javier Hurtado puts a finely-balanced circular sculpture on his head. Sandra Ibanez Ramirez climbs onto it to turn, swivel and spin while keeping rock-steady balance. They all make the seemingly impossible look so easy.
The Underbelly big top is right next to the London Eye and the festival has a pleasant AstroTurf “Underbelly Pasture” garden full of street-food stalls and a range of specialist bars such as Pimm’s. (The blackberry and elderflower cup is worth trying.) Underbelly also has scheduled more circuses for the season including SOAP from Germany and Circa from Brisbane, Australia.
London has seen it all when it comes to the circus in the last few summers: the Moscow State Circus, Zippos, Shaolin Monks, Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Berserk among them. Circolombia ranks among the best.
Circolombia is at Underbelly Festival Southbank through July 14. The festival runs through September 30. Based between Southbank Centre, Jubilee Gardens and the London Eye, just off Belvedere Road. Information: http://www.underbellyfestival.com
Founder Louise Blouin