Retreating into a dreamscape of extravagance, beauty, and sensory delights – this, for me, is Cirque du Soleil.
I’ve been to a few of these magnificent shows and by far my favourite is Totem. I saw it recently in Irvine, located an hour’s drive from Los Angeles. That evening, the Grand Chapiteau beckoned with its welcome burst of colour in a field of darkness; magic was brewing inside the yellow-and-blue-striped tent.
Sitting ringside to witness the “evolution of mankind” is a surreal experience in itself; adding dazzling acrobatics and dizzying props creates a journey most fantastical. An artistic alchemy stirs in the space between science and myth, a place where imagination seems to have no bounds: Amerindian artists dance through hoops, a catch-me-if-you-can trapeze act rouses romance, a contortionist backbends and arm balances to show strength in the face of struggle, Crystal Ladies juggle glittery squares of material with out-of-this-world hand-and-foot coordination, a sensual roller-skating duo spins with controlled passion, unicycles and rings add a traditional circus element; there are flamenco beats, African drums, and the tunes of Bollywood; visual effects turn a blank canvas into an otherworldly space coloured with the intricate yet bold costumes inspired by amphibians, lost civilizations of South America, and Aborigines (all designed by Australian Kym Barrett, known for her work on Romeo+Juliet and Matrix movies). The show is a sure-fire way to awaken the anthropologist in all of us.
Forty-seven artists from 15 countries, and 73 support staff from 9 countries, make up the cast of Totem. Away from the desk, away from the demands of work, away from the news and all that goes with it, performances like these unite us and simply request that we be present to delight in a marvellous experience; to leave (most assuredly!) in a state of wonderment, and with the feeling that there’s a lot to celebrate in the world.