Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cirque Du Soleil: Kooza

No one creates a world better than Cirque Du Soleil. Their ability to tell a story isn't perhaps as great as they claim. Though their press stresses that they are returning to a most story-driven experience in Kooza, there is very little stringing the acts together. However, the performances are all so breathtaking that minor details like plot don't matter a whole lot.

Never have I seen a performance group able to immediately grab the attention of the audience and do it in such a unassuming way. Rather than starting the show with one of their trademark death-defying feats, their clowns entered into the audience about five minutes before curtain to perform an audience-interactive dumb show. Perhaps it is the pedigree of the performance company itself, but the spectators we so willing to go along with and engage in anything that was thrown at them. A little girl was brought onstage to mirror the dancing of a ballerina and the audience applauded her every move. Once you have an audience locked in like that, you can take them anywhere.

Nothing can describe the electric atmosphere inside the tent. If you have ever seen Cirque du Soleil's videos they, of course, do not do a live performance justice; but not for the reasons would think. One of the most impacting things was the presence of a live orchestra and vocalists providing the music. Nothing compares to the resonance of a bass and drums and the piecing of hot brass. There is something so much more alive in the music that creates the underscoring for the whole piece.

Our performances were not perfect - the trapeze artists missed her final trick, an acrobat fell off the high-wire (his save was actually more thrilling that the double-bicycle stunt they would finish their act with), and one of the performers tripped a little on the wheel of death. There is always tension created when performing death-defying stunts, but seeing them as human (the high-wire guy lost his hat) and having it reinforced that something could go wrong, are both thrilling and really scary. Sadly too, these little hiccups didn't seem so much as something gone wrong, but made things look under-rehearsed and over-shadowed the 30 or so other tricks they pulled off flawlessly.

Most breathtaking of all were the clowns; the truly human element. They were so perfectly performed and so simple that it was a thing of beauty. To point to what they did or how they did it would be impossible. But their ability to fill the then with their honest portrayals is something that could never translate to any other medium.

What else was there... Contortionists who were disturbing. A unicycle duo. Chair balancing - about 25 feet high. The most amazing juggler you'd ever see (12 rings - 7 clubs at a time), and teeter board acrobats (yes, they would even launch a guy on stilts).

All in all, if you haven't seen any Cirque du Soleil, you should definitely take the opportunity to see them. The build their own tent in the parking lot of the United Center and build their own world in our minds.

Happy Birthday: Tom Stoppard

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