‘Knot‘, performed by acrobatic duo Nikki and JD, kicks off with a red herring and entertains with dazzling stunts, autobiographical snippets and fluid choreography in The Place’s intimate theatre.
We blindly follow their alternative romantic history, much like an “alternative fact” – presented thusly in order to please the audience. But the purposefully contrived, less-than-convincing fairy tale disintegrates quickly – and suddenly ‘Nikki & JD’ emerge as distinct individuals.
JD’s lines echo Holden Caulfield, as he unflatteringly describes his ex-girlfriend and explains how one drink at the bar finally ended at an after-party at 7 am. Some lines were quite deep: “in my head, I knew [our relationship] was done. And it finished without finishing, which is not very nice.” But the jovial audience, many attending because of the CircusFest, mostly enjoy chuckling along with his silly observations. (JD’s sheepish imitation of Gaga is quite a treat, too.)
The performance feels at home within the dance theatre. Thankfully, the performers drop the fanfare before stunts. Instead of longwinded preparations to build anticipation, they seamlessly integrate lifts into smooth dance phrases. They move wonderfully in tandem as they latch onto each other, interlocking limbs, and support each other’s weight.
The show flies by as they discuss their realities, chattering away to the audience in a slightly competitive, symbiotic catharsis. They one up each other, vocally hashing out their problems until Nikki blames her lack of a boyfriend on JD.
She worries how she will meet a partner when she spends so much time training with JD. Acute observations about how he is the only one to hold her hand, check into hotels with her and share a 2-4-1 rail card together gives way to a hilarious slap fight à la “Stomp.” The rhythmic tit for tat prodding eventually falls to the floor and an amusing wrestling scuffle ensues.
Depending on the scene, the performers move together with curiosity, playfulness, tenderness or frustration. However, their movement always sings. They sweep across the stage in supported cartwheel lifts, swing into incredible balanced inversions and half twist into handsprings. The drops, where JD catches Nikki before her head crashes onto the stage, are terrifying. The strength, stamina and control of both performers are spectacles within themselves.
The show closes as each performer has come to term with his and her own realities – and their shared relationship. While their circus partnership may be temporary, they push and pull each other in a modified hustle, before settling into a gentle sway. The audience shares their relief as they revel in the big band Cha Cha tune and the friends enjoy dancing together.