Cirque du Soleilreally is like nothing else in the world of theatre. Since they arrived in the mid 1980's, they have become an international institution, utilizing performers and athletes from over 40 nations and currently operating eight separate shows both on tour and in places like Las Vegas and Walt Disney World. Their newest offering, "Dralion" is an extraordinary spectacle of Chinese acrobats, Euro-international clowns, blaring syntho-pop music, dazzling costumes and set designs, and a constant array of mind-boggling sensation. The program explains a rather esoteric concept concerning the four elements as represented by Henriete Gbou (earth), Colette Morrow (air), Benjamin Pring (fire) and Amrapali Ambegaokar (water). Frankly, I wouldn't have understood any of that without the program, and it didn't make a bit of difference. Like the music, which uses unintelligible sounds to create pure effect, the intention of this evening was to do for the adults in the audience precisely what it did for my six year old daughter. Her eyes opened wide with the first act, her mouth gasped into a wow that lasted for 2 1/2 hours, and she left the theatre with a wish that it "wouldn't end, in case I forget anything".
Among the variety of jaw-dropping acts, the astonishing juggler Viktor Kee found exactly the Cirque du Soleil blend of skill and beauty, making the movement of balls and the movement of his body into sculpture, dance and circus. The troupe of young Chinese women who performed on the teeterboard awed the audience with five person high towers constructed from bodies flying through the air. Ten young men proved that it was possible to pass the human body through small bamboo hoops from practically any angle, and in practically any posture. All of those things, like the young woman who opened the show balanced on one hand, changing position and never once teetering, are the sort of skills that dazzle with their sheer finesse. But this show does something else as well. It evokes dreams of impossible movement that we all might imagine, but never really thought we'd see. Igor Arefiev and Colette Morrow dance on long, suspended lengths of blue cloth, alternately rising into the air and winding themselves through both the material and the immaterial. I thought it was simply gorgeous. In all this pure spectacle, one needs relief, and the clowns provided that with classic slapstick, mocking parody of the show itself, and humorous displays of their own finesse. There may have been a bit too much of this, but it was as expertly performed as any of the other kinds of balancing acts. One particular piece, in which they involve a man from the audience, was perfectly executed and genuinely surprising.
"Dralion" is more of an event than what we commonly think of as a theatre production. The tickets are a bit pricey, but when I think of the number of two character, bare stage shows I've seen for not much less, it seems like quite a bargain. More importantly, the audience is clearly thrilled and satisfied by the end of the production, and it's pleasures are generous and abundant, indeed. I think there are times when we all need to just surrender to the astonishment of our senses, to let the extraordinary take us away, and to find exotic beauty in something completely unlike our everyday experience. I can't think of a better way to accomplish all that than "Dralion", and no one does it better than Cirque du Soleil.
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