“Oh. My. GOD!” exclaims a friend during intermission at a recent production of Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna in Calgary. “Did you see that water bowl performance? Did she really just DO that? Unbelievable! I think I’ve fallen in love.”
My friend’s gobsmacked enthusiasm is exactly what Canada’s most famous traveling road show repeatedly inspires in its audiences.
The Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun) – a company that evolved from “a band of colourful characters” who did street performances in Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec during the early 1980s – has now entertained more than a hundred million people around the planet.
The key to their epic success? Delivering unforgettable moments like, in the case of Amaluna, the water bowl scene – where contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova‘s playful and beyond impressive demonstration of “sinuous sexuality” stirs the collective senses of onlookers and leaves them literally breathless with excitement.
The Cirque – renowned for its original live music performances, mind-bending sets and wildly imaginative costumes – consistently delivers jaw-dropping, eye-popping, heart-stopping acts that test human limits.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a die-hard fan of the company that re-imagined, courageously if you ask me, what a circus can look like. So much so that upon reflection, I can see that different shows punctuate the various stages of my life.
I was a newlywed in Toronto when I attended the life-affirming Alegria, an “ode to the energy, grace and power of youth.” The soundtrack to this show (which is currently touring Russia) is like nothing else I’ve ever heard and, almost 20 years later, it remains embedded in my mind.
Our firstborn was two years old when we traveled through Quebec City and stumbled upon a shop that sold authentic Cirque du Soleil masks. Of course, she fell in love with a black, gold and dragon’s blood red number that transformed her instantly into an exotic bird straight from the tropics. We had no choice but to buy it.
Our son, born three years later, would also quickly come to appreciate the whimsical, wondrous world of the Cirque du Soleil. He claims that Mystere – which bills itself as a “high-energy Cirque du Soleil classic” and which he attended with his Grandparents – is his favourite production to date.
A few years back, I traveled with “Toque” (Toque & Canoe co-founder Jen Twyman) on assignment to Las Vegas where we would see the aquatic masterpiece ‘O‘ – a rich and extraordinary feat from start to finish. When people inquire about the show, I have no words. I simply insist they need need to fly to Vegas, head to the Bellagio, and see it themselves.
All said, I just bumped into a yoga teacher in Calgary who had never attended a Cirque performance until she saw Amaluna a few nights ago. “Given what I do, I understand body strength,” she announced excitedly. “What those performers were able to pull off is beyond human. I was blown away.”
Maintaining the wow factor in Cirque du Soleil shows – according to Mark Pawsey (Amaluna’s London-born artistic director) – is the company’s priority. “We know it’s our duty to deliver something incredible and different to our audience with every production. This is our challenge,” says Pawsey – who, after he saw Saltimbanco in England almost two decades ago, knew he had to work for the Canadian circus company. “I couldn’t speak. I was in a space I’d never been before.”
That’s the magic of the Cirque du Soleil. Performances have the potential to take you to new and exotic places and give you fresh eyes on the world.
Amaluna’s company manager Jamie Reilly said it best when I inquired about her life on the road with Canada’s coolest traveling circus. “You know what? We live in a difficult world,” she answered. “I’m so proud to be part of the Cirque because really – when you look at the bottom line – what we’re offering is inspiration and joy to the planet.”
As for my friend and her enthusiastic comments about Amaluna’s water bowl act?
Yes, I saw Mykhailova’s performance. Yes, she really DID do that. But why so surprised, I remember thinking smugly. We’re talking, after all, about ‘The Cirque” – a company that has always made the impossible possible.
***Toque & Canoe loves to get comments from our readers. Have you seen a Cirque show before? Do you have a favourite? Tell us about it!
***Amaluna plays in Calgary until May 19 before going to Edmonton where it will remain from May 29-June 23.