Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Amazing Cirque Du Soleil Is In Town

When I wrote last week about Dralion coming to Duluth this week I called Cirque Du Soleil "an admirable achievement." After having seen this production, my words simply too tepid. Dralion is a phenomenon. And I would urge everyone who has not seen it to go to one of the four shows left in this run. Two shows a day, today and tomorrow at AMSOIL Arena.

We took some friends to see the Wednesday evening show and were utterly blown away. We were an interesting mix: two teens and four "seniors" who have been around the block a few times. All came away awestruck, indicating to me that this circus is a cross-generational experience that will leave very few unmoved.

Dralion is a signature Cirque du Soleil® production that has now been experienced by close to eleven million people worldwide since it premiered in 1999 in Montreal, Canada. Like circuses of old, Dralion was a travelling circus that performed under the big top. Since 2010 it has been presented in arenas around the world. Inasmuch as the temps were hovering around zero outside that night, my guess is that indoor arenas help create a more comfortable experience.

The name comes from a fusion of East and West, as symbolized by the Dragon (East) and the Lion (West). Dralion is comprised of 3,000 year-old Chinese acrobatic arts with the multidisciplinary approach of Cirque du Soleil. Thematically Dralion draws inspiration from Eastern philosophy and its never-ending quest for harmony between humans and nature.

Like most Cirque du Soleil events there’s a storyline that serves as a thread providing continuity to the experience. But you don't really need to know the story to enjoy the wonder.

The show features 50 international acrobats, gymnasts, clowns, musicians and singers. Yes, it's live performance art, and not a pre-recorded soundtrack that serves as backdrop to the show.

I've already written about the characters and the costumes here. What's striking is the caliber of the circus acts themselves. Let's begin with the clowns.

Clowns serve as the glue that holds all the disparate elements together in a circus. When I was growing up the clown Emmett Kelly was one of my mother's idols, and a favorite of the Ringling Bros. Circus. In 1970 Fellini did a whole film on clowns alone. I learned early on that clowns come in all shapes and forms, and the Cirque stretches our boundaries even on this most basic of circus roles.

One reviewer at Yelp felt the clowns were "creepy" in Dralion, but our audience Wednesday seemed totally engaged by their bizarre humor. More than one in my group was impressed by their ability to grab the attention of a large audience with such ease. We laughed because we couldn't help it.

The acts themselves were far from the normal dancing bears and trapeze artists that we're used to in smaller circuses. Dralion features trampoline artists, juggling, gymnastics, and rope skipping like you've never seen before. Everything is amped to such a degree so as to astonish, whether solo or in teams.

The set design is likewise an integral part of the show. The engineering alone must have been an achievement of design. The 60-foot wide set has a ceiling entrance and space beneath for entrances all about the stage floor. You never know where the next performers will appear from. The things acrobats do on the back wall make you want to run down there to check out how they do it.

Much more could be shared, but my only aim is to say that if you can get to one of this weekend's show, you really should. You won't regret is.  

My advice: Go! And enjoy the show. 4 p.m. and 7:30, today and tomorrow. AMSOIL Arena. 

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