It’s a cozy night in the theatre. The lights are dimmed, all are seated, and the audience is quiet as they wait for the show to begin. Titled “Traces,” some viewers may have been brought here by good reviews while others were recommended by friends. Little do they realize that for the next 90 minutes, they will be transported to another world: one of dance, acrobatics, music, energy, and emotion. In the blink of an eye, seven figures take the stage: six males and one female. There is no slow progression, no easing into things. They enter with zeal and vivacity, moving in the most electrifying kinds of ways and stunning the crowd with every subsequent stunt. The theatre is no longer quiet and mellow – it is brimming with life.
Those seven figures lighting up the stage are Les 7 doigts de la main. The name of the company translates to “the seven fingers of the hand.” It’s a twist on a French idiom used to describe different parts united in coordination toward a common goal, and it honestly couldn’t be more fitting. Each of these talented dancers has something unique to bring to the performance. The show itself is highly personal, involving speaking parts, solo scenes, and even childhood photographs. The audience is able to get a feel for each individual dancer and their different personalities.
One of the more outgoing, friendly personalities belongs to dancer Lucas Boutin. The cast of Traces hails from all different parts of the world, including Mexico, China, the US, Canada, and England – Lucas being the French counterpart. Growing up in France, his passion for performance arts and acrobatics came about early on. At just six years old, Lucas began circus training. With much practice and determination, he excelled at juggling, unicycling, and acrobatics. At the age of 15, he attended a special circus high school where he continued circus training alongside his education. Three years later, he moved on to London where he furthered his talents in theater and dance. It was here that Lucas made the art of Chinese pole his main focus. With all this experience under his belt, Lucas has taken his talents across the globe, traveling far and wide to pursue the thrills of performing before a live audience.
Lucas began performing with the Traces cast in March of 2012, with the full current crew having been united October 2013. Lucas dances in a variety of scenes, but his main act is Chinese pole. Watching his stunts can do one of two things to your heart: make it beat rapidly, or make it stop altogether. The audience holds their breath as he climbs up the pole and projects his body horizontally, no strings in sight. It takes an incredible amount of strength, balance and focus to succeed at the feat that is Chinese pole. As Lucas performs these stunts – one of which includes sliding down the pole head-first and stopping right before hitting the ground – it is only him and gravity. That, and the surrounding gasps of the crowd.
Though Chinese pole is his specialty, he cites Traces’ opening number as being his favorite to perform. This beginning scene is lively as it is chaotic, involving all seven of the dancers running around the stage doing jumps and karate moves. Lucas says this scene is exciting but challenging to do because the members are responsible for catching objects and even one another. Missing a beat is not an option when timing is of the essence.
The show features the dancers performing in a variety of forms, from contemporary dance to hoop diving to skateboarding to juggling to acrobatics to basketball to banquine and teeterboard flips. Even with all these adrenaline-pumping acts, dancer Naomie Zimmermann-Pichon says she finds the speaking parts to be the most challenging. (Ironic how the dancers can seem to flip through the air like it’s nothing, but find their hearts pounding when presented with the mic.) Throughout Lucas’s speaking parts, we come to know him as a comical and happy-go-lucky guy who is self-described as being curious, jealous, and naïve. He later mentioned to me that some more adjectives to describe himself would be smiley, happy, and passionate.
Passionate, indeed. Touring as a performer requires an immense amount of dedication. Waking up in a new city is a regular occurrence for Lucas. After the Traces crew’s run in Boston, the group takes their talents to China, then Japan, followed by France. Previously, Les 7 has performed in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Mexico, Russia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and all over the US. Traveling great distances has brought Lucas many unpredictable experiences that have made for exciting stories. As if his risky stunts on stage weren’t adrenaline-boosting enough, he went skydiving during his day off in New Zealand. One time en route to Mexico, he faced airplane problems and arrived with only one day to spare before the premiere. In that one day, he had to learn the entire show.
Looking ahead, Lucas says he would be honored to do another Les 7 doigts de la main show, citing how he enjoys the personal aspect of the performances. According to him, even with the show’s pre-established style, the dancers are able to bring themselves into their tricks and make it their own. And it isn’t just a matter of acting – real emotion is put into each performance, making for a highly personal and unique experience.
Lucas says he believes the arts bring people together, and that theater and circus can act as a source of unification. This is why he cites the audience itself as being his biggest inspiration. He told a story of a girl who was struggling with depression at the time she went to see Traces. After the show, the girl approached the cast and told them “Thank you, you saved me.” It is moments like this that give meaning to what he is doing. “If I can impact even one person in the audience each night, I’ve done my job right,” Lucas says.
Traces is a show bursting with verve and energy, much like the dancers themselves. “Work hard, do what you love, and never let anyone stop you,” Lucas offers when asked to give advice to those seeking to fulfil their dreams. Even in times when others doubted him and what he was doing, he stayed true to himself and continued to pursue his passions. It is with this integrity that great achievement has come about. Les 7 hopes to bring viewers every night this message of doing what you love.
As the final scene of Traces comes to a close, the music fades, the curtain closes, and the lights go back on. The show has ended – but the feeling remains. The essence of empowerment, passion, and liveliness will stay with audience members for days to come.
To “lead a life fully” is Lucas’s personal philosophy. And from this performance, many will have been inspired to do the same.
Special thanks to Lucas Boutin for interviewing! To find out where Traces is headed next, see tour dates here.