Aussie acrobat troupe’s Backbone is circus on a human scale

Gravity & Other Myths is back. Following a sold-out run here in 2015 with its show A Simple Space, the Aussie troupe returns with a new creation, Backbone.

Running at the Vancouver Playhouse until Nov. 4, Backbone is a mix of thrilling acrobatics, contemporary dance/movement, and live music. Find out more about the 80-minute spectacle, and Gravity & Other Myths, below.

Backbone features 10 acrobats (three men and seven women) from the Gravity & Other Myths company and two musicians. The acrobats use props such as poles (balanced on the acrobats’ foreheads in an eerie set-piece) and engage in activities and games such as forming human pyramids (at one point while wearing buckets on their heads), walking across heads of fellow troupe members, and abusing each other with a stretched elastic band.

Each performer has a rock that is symbolic of something (strength? a burden?) that works to unify the performance. There is probably some sort of narrative or story but the joy of the show is in watching these committed metahumans toss each other around like basketballs. Also, the show earns extra points from this reviewer for comedic use of a suit of armour.

While the acrobats provide a stunning potpourri of tricks, backflips, throws, and catches, musicians/composers Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory perform a soundtrack that underscores the troupe’s agility, power and grace.

Gravity & Other Myths formed in Adelaide in 2009. Since then the troupe has received acclaim all over the world with their ensemble works, including the award-winning A Simple Space.

If you like the circus but prefer something a little more intimate than Cirque du Soleil’s big-tent phantasmagorias, Backbone offers many of the same thrills but with more immediacy and delight. Recommended.

Backbone is at the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton St.) until Nov. 4. Tickets from $30 at 604-251-1363 or

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