Ashley Banjo and Diversity enter the circus ring to a soundtrack of The Greatest Show and the 2000-strong crowd goes wild.
The atmosphere feels like a pop concert and there are grown women screaming like excited teenagers. In the 250th anniversary year of the circus, Diversity brings star-billing and likely a whole new big top audience.
Ever since winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, the Essex dance troupe has wowed crowds with Ashley Banjo’s fast moving and acrobatic choreography. This new show, Ignite, sees Diversity team up with Gandeys Circus to create a two-hour, high energy performance that fuses street dance and circus.
It’s a terrific partnership, that coupled with music from The Greatest Showman movie captures a moment in time and emotions that lift the roof.
Ashley Banjo takes centre stage as ringmaster and a narrative of dreams emerges through the show in a slick weaving of dance routines and circus acts. A raised platform to the back of the ring allows the dancers to remain on stage during many of the acts.
The show includes a high-wire routine, BMX stunts, cyr wheel, trapeze ring, and a heart-pounding double wheel of death where circus performers skip on a rapidly spinning wheel, 9-metres in the air and falling.
There is a bit of clowning, but for the most part Diversity do the job of weaving the acts seamlessly together. But their part in the show is not simply the street dancing they’re famous for and introducing the acts. In Ignite, Diversity add a thrilling element of circus to their routines. For Ashley Banjo this includes two impressive solo escapology routines – one underwater and the other while hanging feet first from a burning shark trap while wearing a strait-jacket.
Young, Perri Kiely who rocked the cute scale on the TV talent show as a kid is now a grown-up part of the team and there are three new kids coming through the ranks. This mix of ages performing adds to the excitement for youngsters watching and makes for a fantastic family show.
The whole tent erupts as the audience leap to their feet as one at the end. After 250 years, thanks to Diversity, circus still wins the popular vote and a whole new generation of fans.
★ ★ ★★★
Ignite is at Intu Trafford Centre from 21-23 September and touring nationwide til November 2018. See website for details.
Read our interview with Ashley Banjo about the show.