(Yes, we are crazy. For those of you keeping track, within seven days, we will have seen a straight play, a circus, a musical, and a variety show. We've also had a book discussion group meeting, a roleplaying game session, and an APA collation. A week is not usually this packed, but this was one of those times everything happened at once. On the eighth day, I updated this blog--.)
We adore Cirque du Soleil, so it was worth the drive, the late return home, and the cramped and vertiginous seating in the Madison Coliseum in order to see one of their shows. Dralion ("Dragon/Lion") is one of their simpler shows with a less pervasive theme than some, and closer to "traditional" circus, hence it is suitable to be doing the one-night-only traveling thing, and of hitting smaller markets like Madison and Green Bay. Nevertheless, we have not yet seen a Cirque show that did not have our jaws dropping at least once, and Dralion was no exception.
Dralion is an explicitly multi-cultural show, combining elements from different continents/cultures as symbolized by the four principal dancers who represented African, South Asian, and Western styles, and one that was either South American or Chinese--hard to tell from the costume which could have been either. There were also loose elemental connotations.
As ever, Cirque du Soleil, which uses no animal acts, pushes the boundaries of human performance in sometimes astonishing ways, and often using very simple or minimal equipment. Such an act was the hand-balancer in the first half. She "merely" performs a one-handed handstand clutching a doorknob-like pedestal well off the ground, but then proceeds to spend five minutes doing things like holding her entire body out at a ninety-degree angle to her arm, and gracefully going though other evolutions and contortions that require muscular strength of steel cables and a gyroscope-equivalent balance system. Whomever says that women are the weaker sex has not encountered female acrobats--.
Other acts based on the simplest things have the power to astonish, such as, oh, jumping through hoops--a performance of marvelous complexity--or, skipping rope. Who would have though that you could make a circus act out of skipping rope? Well, who would have thought that you could have eight men side-by-side skipping rope in unison? Or that they could do that with four men standing on their shoulders? And one man standing on their shoulders for a three-man-high pyramid? Some genius did, and made it happen.
Of course, there were the trademark beautiful acts as well, the aerialist's pas de deux suspended by flowing ribbons of fabric being a case in point. Gorgeous costuming and atmospheric music are to be expected.
One thing I actually realized about this show is how small the cast actually is and appreciated the fact that the sometimes long-seeming clown acts are there in order to give the acrobats time to peel out of one layer of Lycra and get into another. This is since, unlike a regular circus where one act is one bunch of people, in this case, the people diving through hoops dressed as aborigines are the SAME people who came out a few minutes later dressed as hipsters to skip rope. I realized that this is actually true of the other Cirque shows we have seen--with the exception of a few principals and specialists like the jugglers, the same group is doing all the acts--which makes it all the more marvelous. Amazing!
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