Nikki & JD’s Knot is intelligent, layered and often nothing short of exquisite – blending mesmerising acro and dance-theatre elements with humour and heart to navigate the ups and downs of interdependence.
Last seen in Barely Methodical Troup’s Kin, acrobatic duo Nikki & JD’s latest circus/dance-theatre crossover tackles the ‘knotty’ reality of many modern relationships with thoughtfulness, understatement and class.
Semi-autobiographical in its content, Knot celebrates the interdependence required for the couple’s acro partnership to prosper on the one hand – whilst exploring the inevitable pitfalls of such interdependence on the other. Intimacy is necessary both on- and off- stage to make ends meet: the couple frequently finds themselves sharing hotel beds, spend a great deal of their lives holding each other’s hands and explore each other’s bodies on a daily basis whilst training, choreographing and performing.
Trust is essential to this relationship. Communication, also, plus flexibility. (Nikki’s definitely got the latter.) To all intents and purposes, Nikki & JD’s professional partnership is no different from a traditional relationship. But alas, a couple of factors ensure that cannot be the case. It’s the perfect setup for a funny, astute and occasionally profound exploration of how we ‘make things work’ – and ensures Knot functions as a wonderful introspection of the performance-making process, and of acro partnership realities, as well as something far more universal.
Pleasingly, and somewhat unusually for shows of its kind, Knot‘s structuring and dramaturgy is as assured (and competent) as its stunts. Though fat could be trimmed from a couple of spoken sections slightly, Rummer and Broussé’s collaboration with Ben Duke is evident in the show’s strong pacing: movement sections are consistently focused, expertly blending jaw-dropping spectacle with emotive and far more subtle moments of contemporary dance.
Sequences manage to simultaneously feel impossibly well-drilled but genuinely risky and gasp-inducing. Performers seem both inhumanly robust, but eternally vulnerable. The hour feels like a lovely, genuine and conscious ‘laying out’ of the contradictions ever present in human experience. The ending is equally intelligent – one assumes (based on circus convention) that the final movement section will build up to a crescendo. But of course, relationships usually don’t – they simmer and settle. So why should this?
A real highlight of CircusFest 2018, the narrative and concept underpinning Nikki & JD’s Knot is far more than just a device to shoehorn awe-inspiring partner acro stunts into. They’re in there by the bucketload (and surely some of the best in the business) – but perhaps what makes the majority of the piece nothing short of exquisite is its ability to consistently feel human: complex, contradictory and vulnerable.