Arts & Culture

Inuit storytelling through acrobatics

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 2:54 PST, Thu January 23, 2020

Last Updated: 2:08 PST, Mon February 10, 2020

Outside of Cirque de Soleil, acrobatics are rarely at the forefront of theatrical performance. In Unikkaaqtuat, acrobatics and Inuit storytelling combine for an otherworldly spectacle that transports audiences.

Unikkaaqtuat (Inuktitut for “old stories” or “to tell stories”) is the latest collaboration between The Cultch and DanceHouse, whose partnership aims to showcase contemporary circus performance. The creative teams request that audiences remain open minded when digesting Unikkaaqtuat, a multidisciplinary piece.

The framing device that ties the traditional tales together is a hospitalized man. The stories are his unconscious dreams, snippets of another world into which he is transported.

The performance combines acrobatics, storytelling, music, and video. Audience reactions were telling: they were mesmerized. 

The acrobatics were stunning, demonstrating incredible skill. However, sometimes there were multiple things happening at the same time, making it challenging for audience members to choose a focal point. By eliminating some of the circus elements, the ones that remain would be able to shine brighter.

The visuals of Unikkaaqtuat are stunning, and the technical elements allow the performers to shine. However, the central storyline about the hospitalized man lacked closure. A brief ending scene would have clarified his fate and satisfied audiences’ curiosity.

The music in the show was also incredibly strong. Despite some minor technical challenges, the performers’ talent was evident.

This production of Unikkaaqtuat follows its world premiere in Ottawa. The show is creating a new space that bridges Inuit storytelling and circus performance.

Unikkaaqtuat is on at the Vancouver Playhouse (on Hamilton St.) through Jan. 25. There are a limited number of tickets left, which can be purchased online or by calling 604-251-1363. 

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