The first Cirque du Soleil performance I ever saw was “O”, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The show was massive, and it imprinted my mind with dream-like images of high-divers, a man on fire, and people floating away on hoops like weightless bubbles blown through a child's plastic wand.
Cirque occupies its own genre of performing art, blending acrobatics, clowning, creative movement, live music, and spectacularly odd displays of talent. If you’ve ever witnessed a Cirque du Soleil performance, I'm sure you’ll agree that it is difficult to describe. If you haven’t seen a Cirque show yet (or if you are eager to see one again), now’s your chance: “Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities” has set up a Big Top Tent in Northlands Park until August 13, just several blocks from the Bleeding Heart.
I had the privilege of attending the opening night of Kurios with my sister who is a big Cirque fan. She warned me that the travelling Big Top theatre would be much less formal and more “circusy” than the Vegas shows, which in my mind translated to “family-friendlier and less awesome.”
It was family-friendlier, although my sister and I agreed that we wouldn’t recommend it to children younger than 6 (they may get frightened by the dark and dramatic nature of the show).
It was also awesome. *Big* awesome.
I was particularly impressed by the show’s ability to actively engage my imagination. Kurios claims to be a “tribute to imagination and curiosity,” and it delivers. During a transition near the beginning of the show, a few of the clowns hold up books by their spines (book spine, not clown spine - it’s Cirque, so the clarification seems necessary!) and fly them across the stage like birds flapping their wings. It is so simple and happens so quickly, but this moment ignited my imagination, turning me from a passive observer into an active one.
There is no intricate storyline to Kurios - only a loose, steampunk-styled visual framework that leaves breathing room for the audience to mentally engage with each scene. After the ready-made birds flew, more imaginative moments unfold within the “curio cabinet of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of time, space and invention in order to reinvent everything around him.”
A cyclist rides into the air.
A comedic sketch called “the invisible circus” features a clown of small stature who plays ringmaster on a miniature circus set that physically responds to the “actions” of an invisible cast of performers, including a terrified high-diver and a hungry lion.
A chair-stacking guest at a dinner party climbs upwards while a mirror-image of the entire scene builds downwards from the ceiling.
A projection on a cloudlike hot-air-balloon displays breakdancing hands that take a vacation rest on the heads of audience members.
...And did I mention the amazing group stunt scene where men do backflips and land on the shoulders of other men that have previously backflipped onto other men’s shoulders? I know it happened - I saw it - but I am still having a hard time believing that it’s actually possible.
Has a work of art moved you this summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Nothing? May I encourage you for a moment?
Don’t be afraid to encounter and engage with art in any form this summer: visual, musical, theatrical, or otherwise. Are you afraid that it won’t make sense? Just use your imagination. Art speaks. It could be worth it.
Picture credit : © Martin Girard shootstudio.ca
Costume credit : Philippe Guillotel
Photo provided by https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/