Medrano shows, between tradition and innovation

Friday 18 November at the Palapanini di Modena has officially kicked off the 2022-2023 tour of the Medrano of the family Casartelli, with shows taking place over the next two months in the sports halls of Ravenna (November 25-27), Faenza (December 2-5), Bologna (December 8-12), Livorno (December 16-19). A Christmas break is scheduled in Florence (December 25 – January 8) to close in Genoa (January 13-22).

A decisive change of gear: the word ” has disappearedcircus” also from the profile Facebook and from the website, putting aside the traditional chapiteau, it opens up to the fixed structures of the sports halls, within which the traditional round track is still set up. The Palapanini in Modena has a rectangular plan and the artists’ barrier with the traditional Medrano curtains is installed on one of the short sides, while the dance floor is set up exactly in the center of the structure. With the exception of the so-called “stages” close to the ring, all the other seats (armchairs, grandstands) are located on the bleachers. In a context of this type (let’s not forget that in this case the Palapanini has a capacity of over 5,000 seats), the contact, the closeness of the public is somewhat lacking.

The Casartelli family has been awarded twice with the Golden Clown to the International Circus Festival of Monte Carloin 1996 for “The Horse Festival” and in 2007 for all the presentations and for the extraordinary pas de deux between Ingrid and Braian Casartelli; the current show involves some members of the large family alongside external artists and various international crews. Yes, you read that right: crew. We haven’t seen a show with so many choral numbers in years.

For the opening of the show, the engines are warmed up by the Ukrainian dance troupe of the Bingo troupeeight elements (two men and six women) from Kiev, protagonists of an enthralling choreographic framework, with a contortionist verticalist, a trapeze virtuoso and a strap aerialist.

Bingos give way to Sean Limathe new generation of Casartelli, brilliantly graduated from theAcademy of Circus Art of Verona. His specialty is classic juggling, brought to the rink with a typically Latin rhythm and luminosity. Tricks with three, four, five clubs, going through hat juggling and then juggling with six clubs in the air at the same time. Great skill and mastery of the scene.

The comic shots are taken care of, among others, by one of the “historic columns” of Casa Medrano: the clown Otto (stage name of Octavian Similarson of the legendary clown Romualdo) master of mimicry in the parody of the strong man.

Soundtrack “Earth Wind and Fire” for the triumphal entry and ascent to the trapeze of the great Zampanò, whose artistic ambitions are nipped in the bud by the clumsy assistant Jacob. After a decades-long contract with the Cirque Du Soleilabsolute stars of the Icarian games in the show “Varekai”, the brothers returned to Medrano some time ago Roni and Stiv Bello (Casartelli on their mother’s side), where they perform several meters above the ground in an extraordinary comic trapeze, based on the classic dualism “serious artist and troublemaker”, painting even the most complicated passages funny (and there are really many).

From the state circus in Budapest comes a troupe of four breakdance dancers, an apparently non-circus specialty, but certainly acrobatic and which is very suitable in a location such as a sports hall.

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In addition to Stiv and Roni Bello, the penultimate generation of Casartelli is represented by Denise Sforzi (a Casartelli on her mother’s side, while the father is Alberto “Bertino” Sforzi, legendary juggler): her specialty is quick change, transformation, the spectacular art of changing clothes in the blink of an eye, as in the finale, in which the assistant Sean pours a cascade of glitter on her and the her costume transforms, practically on sight, into an evening dress. One of the first circus shows to introduce the quick change was that of Moira Orfei in the nineties, with the extraordinary Russian Sudarchikov.

Perfect facial expressions, deep knowledge of comic times (the experience gained over the years spent at Cirque du Soleil is an unmistakable brand), large black-rimmed glasses, a gaze always between the bewildered and naive, Jacob, in his red attendant livery , takes care, together with Otto and his brother Roni, of the hilarious comedy shots, such as that of the great “comedians” illusions.

Another choreographic picture of the Bingo troupe with two hula hoop dancers precedes one of the show’s most adrenaline-pumping moments: the Brazilians’ globe of death Diorio. A motorcyclist enters the globe and hurtles at high speed inside the metal sphere, defying the laws of gravity and centripetal force. A second motorcyclist enters who crosses his evolutions with those of his colleague and finally a third who increases the degree of difficulty, in a succession of impossible and very dangerous crossings. While inside the chapiteaux the globe is generally brought to the center of the track, in this location it was evidently decided to leave it fixed next to the barrier, perhaps being a little away from the public.

The second part of the program is opened by the troupe “Gang 14” by Fabio Ubaldini and his freestyle motorbikes, an exhibition which, to tell the truth, has little circus (in the strict and more traditional sense of the term), but is undoubtedly highly acrobatic and certainly breathtaking. Motorcyclists enter the arena at high speed and, with the aid of a curved platform, literally take flight for several metres, landing on a giant inflatable mattress which cushions their impact. Impressive.

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Without stopping, we go from one incredible attraction to another bordering on the impossible: having put off his role as Jacob, Stiv Bello, accompanied by Denise Sforzi, freezes the blood of those present with his crossbows and precision shots, made even more impressive because performed on a human target. The final trick is breathtaking: the human target is Stiv Bello himself who shoots a dart that sets off, one after the other, a series of five arrows and the last one, returning towards him, pierces a balloon placed a few inches above his head. Moments of thrill.

She also trained at the Academy of Circus Art in Verona (as indeed the last two generations of the Casartellis), Michelle”MedranoCasartelli, performs with confidence in one of the most interesting antipodism numbers of the current circus scene. Gifted with innate class, she twirls cylinders, balls and fabrics with her feet. Unique in her genre is the dribble of a ball, step by step, on a metal tree structure that Michelle controls only with her feet, until she hits the basket placed on the top of the apparatus. Final, then, absolutely exciting: she hooked with a strap to her waist, she is lifted upside down in the air for several meters, while she spins four fabrics simultaneously, hands and feet. Very, very good. Chinese circus people, just get out of your way!

The comic interlude of the seesaw is the farewell of the Bello brothers, but when Roni sits with his back on the trench and Stiv climbs on his feet, a shiver runs down our spine and we wonder if they will want us to relive at least a fraction of their great successes from Icarians to Cirque du Soleil. In reality, the trinca is only used for a static vertical, but the emotion is really strong. Two artists who wrote a page in the history of the Italian circus in large letters.

The final number is reserved for the youngest in the company: Gabriel Dell’Acqua, twelve years old, authentic phenomenon of verticalism. Winner with the Latina d’Oro al International Circus Festival of Italy in 2020 and fresh winner of theEuropean Youth Circus 2022 in Wiesbaden: the stage presence and the attitude of a consummate artist. He has been training since he was five years old, he is already an international star and is certainly projected towards a glittering career. He climbs the seven rods of his glittering tool, leaping from one to the other with just one arm. His performance is a succession of perfect balances, fluid and then static figures, precise lines, clean movements, ending on a single arm on a rod that rises for several meters. What is surprising is the strength and resistance: all the series of exercises, without going down, last even more than three minutes, all performed with the disarming smile of a child, but who knows how to expertly dose power and elegance as only a great artist can do . Standing ovation, absolutely deserved.

The grand finale is with pyrotechnics Bingo troupe and all the artists who literally crowd the dance floor: we haven’t seen a show with such a large company for a long time..

The show is well structured: a mix of technique, skill, adrenaline, an excellent use of lights and very refined and elegant costumes, certainly suitable for the whole family. To be honest, we must say that the chapiteau still exerts a very powerful charm, it is certainly more “warm”, the public is closer and more involved. The traditionalists will have to wait for next year to find out if the company choices will continue with this formula or if the appeal of the marquee will prevail.

The absence of animals (as well as aerial acts), but also the choice of presenting attractions that are not strictly circus-like in origin, seem to point towards a new type of show or in any case different from what we have been used to up to now. Metaphorically, one could say that motorbikes in flight replace aerial numbers and steering wheels, that the grid of the globe of death represents cage numbers, that breakdance is the new acrobatics.

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A reflection comes spontaneously: the Casartellis, who have been defined as the largest high-level circus family in business, in this show very few (albeit very valid) take to the track, despite being able to count on an extraordinarily numerous team. It is possible that various branches of the family have “stopped”, perhaps dedicating themselves to other activities, others are certainly far from the spotlight and deal with the various aspects of show management. But it is above all the young talents who are inexplicably under-represented in the show (there are only two of the last generation and in non-acrobatic disciplines), while ample space is given to “external” crews. Considering the brevity of this tour (only two months in a year) and if this formula is reconfirmed in future years as well, the hope is that an artistic heritage of generations is not slowly crumbling.

Thanks to Fabrizio Mori for the courtesy of the photos

Medrano shows, between tradition and innovation