Dream On: Cirque’s KURIOS show at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

While much of America tuned into the Republican debate last night, I was watching curiosities of a different kind at KURIOS – Cabinet des Curiosités created by the enigmatic Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil. This show may not tour as long as the run for presidency (it ends in Los Angeles on February 7, 2016 before visiting Atlanta, Boston, NY, and DC), but it is a wonderful way to get lost in theatrical alchemy: acrobatics, steam punk fashion, otherwordly creatures, and soaring vocals by the brilliant Greek singer, Erini Tornesaki.

As soon as you enter the Cirque’s big top tent, or the Grand Chapiteau, you give yourself over to Kurios‘ fantastical world of the late 19th century, an era of steam power and engineering that influenced a whole subgenre of science fiction (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, HG Wells’ Time Machine) and steam punk culture.

Our Kurios scientist is the inventor of a machine that transcends time and space. When the clock freezes at 11.11 — wishing hour — we’re introduced to the main characters in his cabinet of curiosities. There’s an accordion-shaped man; a telegraph named Klara in a hoop skirt that transmits messages; and Mr Microcosmos, the embodiment of the technological process, whose subconscious takes the form of a tiny lady named Mini Lili that lives in his boiler-as-potbelly.

I love Cirque for its contortionists, acrobats, and balancing acts, and in this show, they’re  as amazing as ever. A quartet of bendy ladies dressed as sea creatures effortlessly twist into unreal poses atop a giant mechanical hand. Twin aerialists display muscular strength while arm balancing on a set of rings. Rebounding off of an Acro Net, artists jump, flip, and glide through the air like swimmers in the sea. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, a chair balance taking place at a dinner party is interrupted by a second party happening above, upside down, on the ceiling. Suddenly, two sets of chairs  are being stacked towards each other from opposite directions. Teetering on the brink, they finally touch.

Perhaps the most unexpected act of the show is the finger puppetry, where one hand, costumed in sneakers and a baseball cap, dances to hip hop, swims, and performs skateboard moves on a mini theatre stage — all filmed with live video that’s projected onto a giant screen — before taking off in a hot air balloon. The act ends as a love story (there’s a second set of fingers involved) on top of an audience member’s head. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does – a perfect example of success in bizarre experimentation.

That’s the thing about Cirque du Soleil. It asks us to embrace the unexpected and stretch beyond our imaginations. I’m always compelled to write more, dream bigger, and read fiction after a show (I’m about to watch Oz the Great and Powerful actually). In Kurios, an invisible theatre act forces you to fill the void of the unseen characters whose presence is only made apparent by the consequences of their movements. Sound strange? It is, but it can be as crazy as you imagine it.

Other acts include the gripping Rola Bola that involves an aviator balancing atop a stack of tubes on a swing; a yo-yo extraordinaire (he lends a retro air); an aerial cyclist; and acrobats performing mesmerising synchronised sequences.

The whirlwind two-hour performance comes to an end when the Kurios clock flips to 11.12. As we filed out, I dared the performance to inhabit my dreams.

Photos Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca


Circus Magic ~ Irvine, CA

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.

1957_OSA_PS_TOTEM_3406PS1957_OSA_PS_TOTEM_2285PSCDS_totem_russianbars_OSA_PS_TOTEM_(1)PS_SA13990_v5PS0SA36015_v5PS0R4A1345_finale_RPS0R4A1535_finale_RPS_SA13752_v5PS0R4A1264_finale_RPSAs cameras weren’t allowed, there images are ©2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc.

Set Your Sights on Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA

If you happened to be on Hollywood Boulevard yesterday, along with hundreds of other spectators you may have spotted a starry eyed Scarlett Johannson standing outside the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. This is where her Walk of Fame plaque joins the 2,369 others planted along both sides of a thoroughfare fringed with kitschy souvenir stores, the awards hosting Kodak Theatre, a Madame Tussauds museum, and the legendary Roosevelt Hotel – said to be haunted with the spirit of Marilyn Monroe.

Whilst this block of the boulevard, wedged between North Sycamore and Highland Avenue, feels like Hollywood’s nucleus; the area within the district’s circumference is also worthy of exploration. Further down the Boulevard, you’ll come across old-school stores and iconic architecture; Hollywood Hills is a fitting backdrop – its hiking trails treat you to panoramic vistas of Los Angeles City from all angles. You may even come face to face with a landmark you had only ever seen from a distance or know from the movies…

Here are some other options to consider on your next trip to Hollywood.

WALKING TOUR: Hollywoodland

A hike through the Hollywood Hills is a perfect introduction to the terrain that makes up LA. Leave the urban zone behind, arm yourself with Charles Fleming’s L.A. Walks: Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood sign directions, and get set to explore a beautiful neighbourhood that showcases the appeal of living in the hills.

Hollywoodland was a housing development established in 1923; it was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most attractive residential sections of the City of Los Angeles”. You’ll feel a bit of a Mediterranean Riviera vibe in this part of LA; that’s exactly how the plan for this section of the Hollywood Hills was envisaged.

You’ll pass a Norman chateau, once home to Hollywoodland real estate developer L. Milton Wolf; recently it was purchased and remodeled by musicmind, Moby. Enroute is Madonna’s former home: the 1926-built Mediterranean villa, Castillo del Lago, is a beautiful mansion with stand-out appeal.

Beyond the thick of the Spanish broom plant and bountiful cacti rests the Lake Hollywood Reservoir – designed by William Mulholland, it was first filled in 1925 and supplied a growing city with water.

The walk isn’t a tough one, unless there’s a need to pick up the pace for any looming rain-busting clouds that may be hovering above. Tall eucalyptus trees, flourishing bougainvillea, and palm trees make up the landscape upon ascent to Mulholland Drive. From here, up-close views of the Hollywood Sign are frequent.

A bit of history: Originally reading ‘Hollywoodland’ in 1923, the sign was planned to be an 18-month advertisement. Still standing in 1949, community support saved it from its fate; refurbished, its name was shortened to ‘Hollywood’. A second restoration took place in 1978, but this was more labour intensive as it meant an overhaul.

The new sign, made of corrugated metal on steel poles driven into the hillside in the exact same spot as the old sign, was completed on October 30th, 1978. The new sign is 5 feet shorter than the original, to help it maintain stability against wind and other elements. Funding for the new sign came from the Hollywood Sign Trust, which was established for the occasion. www.laist.com

Celebrities pledged their support at a donation of $27,000 per letter; Hugh Hefner paid for the letter ‘Y’, whilst Alice Cooper donated to the last letter ‘O’, in memory of Groucho Marx.

Take some photos of the varied architecture as you walk downhill, to your starting point.


Modern architects Richard Neutra and John Lautner, along with photographer Julius Shulman, left their mark on Hollywood’s real estate world. If you’re a fan of Modern architecture, a drive to see some of these architectural constructs is well worth it.

Of note is John Lautner’s Chemosphere House:

“The sleek, octagonal house… is considered a masterpiece of California Modernism and is beloved by cultists of midcentury design,” wrote the LA Times in its 2005 article, Eight Sides to this Story. “It’s hard not to see the house, which sits on a 29-foot-high, 5-foot-wide concrete column over a long-considered-unbuildable Hollywood Hills site, as a hovering flying saucer or a prototype for the 23rd century architecture of The Jetsons.”

Do you agree?

Here, on Torreyson Drive, you may be in the midst of nature, but you can also see sweeping views of the other side of LA: the San Fernando Valley.

NB: Other homes to see in the area include the former home of Julis Shulman, the Neutra designed Josef Kun House, and Lautner’s Harpel House.


Mashti Malone’s serves up the creamiest rosewater saffron ice cream with pistachios… ever. Rosewater to the Middle East is what vanilla is to the US. Make sure to order 2 scoops of this fragrant cream tinged with yellow from the saffron.

What’s with the store name and clovers on its sign? Apparently, the business is owned by two brothers from Iran – one who is named Mashti. Unable to replace the entire sign of the ice cream parlor after they’d purchased it, then called Mugsy Malone’s, they simply replaced the first name only.

The brothers do happen to have a sister-in-law by the name of Malone, who lives in Cape Cod and is married to their older brother, Iraj. When Mashti bought the store, he told her they bought it for her, which made her laugh. http://www.mashtimalone.com

You’ll find the neon lit, bare-bones store at the corner of Sunset and La Brea.


From samba to soul, electronic to experimental, reggae to rock, Amoeba is the world’s largest independent music store and stocks it all. As you flip through stacks of CDs and DVDs over two floors, you might be lucky enough to catch one of their live in-store music performances. A mainstay on Sunset Boulevard for over a decade now, it’s easy to lose track of time in this warehouse that spans an entire city block, especially if you’re a hard-core collector of music or movies.

Seek out the Capitol Records Building, on the corner of Vine and Hollywood Blvd. The world’s first circular building, it took two years to complete. Artists who have recorded here include Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, and the Beach Boys. In the year it opened, 1956, Frank Sinatra inaugurated one of its studios by recording the instrumental album, Tone Poems of Color. The tip of the spire at night blinks out the words ‘Hollywood’ in Morse code, and you’ll find the Walk of Fame stars of John Lennon and Garth Brooks outside the building.

SEE A SPECTACULAR, GRAB A LATE NIGHT SNACK… throw in a glass of champagne too

Catch the year-round sensation, IRIS A Journey Through the World of Cinema™ at Kodak Theatre. A delightful mix of theatre and film presented in the signature Cirque du Soleil style, this is a must-see. Note: Home of the Academy Awards, the show bows out of the theatre to make way for the Oscars once a year.

The film noir aspect of the spectacular injects a bit of art and a whole lot of play into a vibrant showcase consisting of colourful costumes, eccentric makeup, bouffant hairstyles, and acrobatics performed with effortless precision. This is a whirlwind 360 degree theatre experience: the animated orchestra plays in the balconies; aerial acts evoke ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as they swing from ropes high above; dancers glide across the stage below; audio visual projections intersperse with moving images, and lots of fun and laughs are achieved through good-natured audience participation.

Inspired by the aerial acts, you may float out of the theatre feeling a little high from all the electric energy. Go on, cartwheel all the way down Hollywood Boulevard if you so desire.

Across the road, the flashing red neon of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is hard to resist for a night cap… maybe even a late night snack (the exertion of the IRIS show will wear you out).

The Public Kitchen and Bar serves food until about 11pm on weekends; chilled oysters splashed with lime go down so well with a glass of bubbly. Be prepared for the crab cake to rock your world. A triangular package, it is crispy on the outside, and generously filled on the inside. Delectable.

The leather banquettes are a match for the restaurant’s subdued vibe; in between bites of charred octopus and hamachi enjoyed from the spacious seating that looks onto the hotel’s lobby, you’ll be impressed with how well a lively Saturday night LA crowd packs it in. That said, nothing can take away from the old-Hollywood grandeur of the hotel’s open space; high ceilings, Spanish colonial architectural details, magnificent chandeliers, a fountain in the centre – you’ll be transported to another world.

FACT: It was in this hotel that the first ever Academy Awards was held in 1929. Old Hollywood patrons included Clark Gable and Carole Lombard; representative of New Hollywood, Paris Hilton and Price have partied here.

For some outdoor-action, grab a cocktail by the pool at the Tropicana Bar. Chill out as long as you want for you’ll be spending the entire night dreaming up ways on how to pave your own way to stardom.