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Cirque Du Soleil

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I just borrowed Cirque Du Soleil's Varekai DVD from a library and I must say I am very captivated by what I have seen in this DVD. Some of the scenes and performances in it I have to watch over and over again. I can't stop watching the scene (Ch. 18) titled "Handbalancing on Canes" which is my favorite, and also (Ch. 3) titled "Flight of Icarus". I really don't have too much knowledge about Cirque Du Soleil or any of the other productions they have out. But what I have seen in this particular one, has left me curious about what the others are like. I really can't tell HOW the artists do some of the performances they have done, even when I see it from the multi-angle view in the DVD.

The Russian female, Olgi Pikhienko, who plays the part of the catepillar, falls in love with Icarus after his fall. He fell because he flew to close to the sun(as the Greek mythology goes?) and falls to where she is at. Throughout the performance, different creatures try to keep them apart, she is even kidnapped and put into a cacoon. I am not sure if I want to say too much more about what happens, so as not to ruin it for those that might be interested in it. The scenes that I particularily like are the ones that involve the two of them together, the way they show their emotion for each other through the movements of their bodies, expressions, and special performances they do when the two are with each other. Olgi is absolutely breathtaking, her balancing on the canes, her every movement is very well planned to express as much emotion to us as possible. She says in her interview on the DVD. "Anything I do, I try to make it as expressive as possible." "I get free of my skin" "You control yourself. This is the way I feel in life. This is the way I express it on stage." To paraphrase her...What she feels she puts into movements. The artists that audition, the ones that make it to Cirque Du Soliel, are some of the best at what they do...if not the best. The Cirque standards for the most part, in various contexts, are very high indeed. At least that is what I gather from what little I do know so far about it.

What I have seen in Varekai , in those said performances in part, I have found an extremely fitting quote written by Ayn Rand:

“The keynote of the stylization achieved in ballet is: weightlessness. Paradoxically, ballet presents man as almost disembodied: it does not distort man's body, it selects the kinds of movements that are normally possible to man (such as walking on tiptoe) and exaggerates them, stressing their beauty—and defying the law of gravitation. A gracefully effortless floating, flowing and flying are the essentials of the ballet's image of man. It projects a fragile kind of strength and a certain inflexible precision, but it is man with a fine steel skeleton and without flesh, man the spirit, not controlling, but transcending this earth…

Within each system, specific emotions may be projected or faintly suggested, but only as the basic style permits. Strong passions or negative emotions cannot be projected in ballet, regardless of its librettos; it cannot express tragedy or fear—or sexuality; it is a perfect medium for the expression of spiritual love.”

“Art and Cognition,” RM, pb 68.

Here is another quote that I found :

“…a performance may be entertaining, in such fields as vaudeville or the circus, but it has nothing to do with art. The performance of an aerialist, for instance, demands an enormous physical skill—greater, perhaps, and harder to acquire than the skill demanded of a ballet dancer—but what it offers is merely an exhibition of that skill, with no further meaning, i.e., a concrete, not a concretization of anything.”

Ibid.,70

Well I think that Cirque Du Soleil at least in Verakai, I can’t speak for the rest, does in fact present various performances of skills, like contortionists, aerialists, trapeze, ballet…with meaning, with a plot, and characters that are specifically using, directing, explicitly stating, consistently adapting and integrating their particular talents and skills TO concretize..... This is Cirque Du Soleil qua Cirque Du Soleil. This is what makes them so original in what they do. These are just premature comments I am making. I don’t have an extensive knowledge about this field or about Cirque.

So I'm going to open this up to everyone:

Has anyone else seen this, or any of their various performances and shows? Any comments about them, about Cirque Du Soleil, about performance art in general, or if I'm mistaken or incorrect in what I have said, they are all welcome.

Edited by intellectualammo
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  • 1 year later...

I saw La Nouba during a Disney trip a month ago with my brother and niece. I didn't even realize it was there until the night before. Sooooo glad we went. It was spectacular. I haven't seen any of the others, but I HIGHLY recommend this one.

Can you tell I liked it? ;) I don't know why I didn't post about it sooner. I bring up it now because I just hopped on iTunes and bought a couple of the tracks as I've been meaning to. If you want a brief description, I'd say it's a tricked-out circus or a circus on crack.

I didn't follow the plots so much as the music and the physical aspects of the acts.

The music is exceptional. It's stylistically eclectic, ranging from hip-hop ballad to new age/ambient to tripped-out, dramatic rock that would make Steve Vai proud. If you're interested in checking out the music, here are a couple recommendations:

"A Tale" - This is a beautiful number that I can best describe as hip-hop ballad. The mellowness of the keys and muted trumpet combined with the hip-hop feel of the drums is awesome. And the singer's voice is just captivating. (The holder of such a voice could have my children if she wanted to.) I don't know what language the lyric is in--if it's even a real one--and I don't really care. In fact, I think I prefer not understanding it so I can focus on the beauty of the voice and the sounds of the "words." It would be terrible to have a great song ruined by a subpar lyric. If you like this one, check out "Liama".

"Distorted" - Part-mystery, part-world beat, part-triumph, all-universe. (Lame, I know, but it fits.) Parts of it belong on Vai's "Fire Garden Suite", others in a techno song. Awesome guitar performance. The "part-triumph" is in the section with that vocal motif. Love it. That section is nicely punctuated by the N*SYNC keyboards on 1 and the + of 2. And if you like this one, definitely check out "Urban" and "Jardin Chinois".

The physical aspects of the acts are super cool as well. There's some standard circus material such as trapeze and balancing on a huge stack of chairs. Not to say that stuff isn't impressive--I loved it. Just to say that to my knowledge, that is common in a circus.

My favorites were the diabolos and the trampoline/power track. The diabolos are young Chinese girls with Chinese yo-yos. Their talent is impressive for an adult, nevermind for a child. How wonderful to be so talanted at such a young age!

The trampoline/power track was the perfect climax. I marveled at the performers' precise sense of timing and precision. I don't want to say more than that and ruin the surprise for you. Suffice it to say that there were several jaw-dropping, smack-the-guy-next-to-you-on-the-shoulder moments.

If you go to Disney World, or somehow find yourself in the Orlando area, you need to make it a point to go to this show. If I recall correctly, that part of Disney (Downtown Disney on the West Side) doesn't require any kind of theme park admission.

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If you want a brief description, I'd say it's a tricked-out circus or a circus on crack.

Hmm...stick with the former.

I have only seen Varekai and Allegria on DVD, but I definately enjoyed the plot more in Varakai.

The music is exceptional. I don't know what language the lyric is in--if it's even a real one--and I don't really care. In fact, I think I prefer not understanding it so I can focus on the beauty of the voice and the sounds of the "words."

I wager, as with most of their music, that it was sung using Cirque language called "Cirquish", their own made up language, which really aren't words per se. I may have written more about this elsewhere on this forum. I haven't heard La Nouba's music, but Varekai's music, paricularily the main singer, Zara Tellander, I really enjoy!! I was like, "What is she singing about? What language is she singing it?" and it lead me to finding out about the Cirque language. I read a wonderful book all about Cirque du Soleil a while ago titled, 20 Years Under The Sun - An Authorized History and recommend it to anyone that wants to know more about the sun circus. Guy Laliberté, is a billionaire now. I may also have written about that elsewhere here.

If you go to Disney World, or somehow find yourself in the Orlando area, you need to make it a point to go to this show. If I recall correctly, that part of Disney (Downtown Disney on the West Side) doesn't require any kind of theme park admission.

I've never had nor have a reason to visit that state, but perhaps I will watch La Nouba on DVD someday. I really do want to watch more of their shows. Sometimes they have traveling shows, such as Varekai, or more permanent ones, like ones in Disney, or Las Vegas. Also, these shows tend to evolve, in that new singers and performers may be added and the originals leave, so if you have seen it performed, or watched the DVD's, or when you see it performed live again many months or years later, it may very well be different.

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I love them and attend every time they come though town. In person in the tents, is 10 times better then on video. If you haven't been to one, I command you to go. ;) The plot lines are rather incidental for me. Mostly, I just sit astonished for two hours by what humans are capable of. It is the acrobatic equivalent of seeing skyscrapers for the first time. They are usually a little expensive($50-100) but I would easily pay double that to see it.

I saw Saltimbanco in October. It was VERY impressive. I have never seen any other circuses do some of the acts this show did. It was incredibly entertaining and completely worth the money.

I just saw that and liked it a lot. That guy that "floated" up that pole with only arms?!?! Holy Cow!

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Also, I'd like to add that youtube's got plenty of Cirque on it.

Like my favorite dance that I have ever seen performed from Varekai, because of how intimate and romantic it is - this is love to me, a dance, not a game, and these are its dancers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1TjWYZ6gfk

Can you see the ownership? the masculine, the feminine? I can.

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In August, Paul and I saw Cirque de Soleil 's "O" in Vegas. Here's what I blogged about it:

Last week, Paul and I visited his parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece in Los Angeles. It was a pleasant and easy time, plus I got two to three hours of dissertation work done every day. So that worked out fabulously well.

In the middle of the week, we went with Paul's parents to Las Vegas for three days. (Happily, I came out $60 ahead on video poker!) The much-anticipated event of the trip was the Cirque de Soleil "O" show. (That's the one at the Bellagio performed over water.) Even though it has been running for a few years, it's still enormously popular. We saw a substantial line of people waiting in the "standby" line in the hopes of buying the rather expensive tickets -- on a Wednesday night! A few years ago, Paul and I saw -- and very much enjoyed -- Cirque de Soleil's "Mystere." So we were expecting a good time.

Much to my dismay, the production was a postmodernist nightmare. The stage was often crowded with random runnings-around by meaningless people in costume, to the point that you missed the introduction of the actual acrobatic act or were distracted from it. Many of the costumes and props seemed to have some substantial meaning (e.g. brides and grooms, 18th century servants) but that meaning was utterly unclear, not to mention unconnected to the activities of the acrobats. (In contrast, and perfectly fine, were the colorful costumes intended to highlight the acrobat and his/her movements.) No integrating theme in these costumes and props could be discerned: it was just a jumbled bunch of unconnected threads.

The worse moment was when they brought the stage hands out for display. Let me explain how that worked. The vast tank of water was not always the surface of the performance. A floor could be raised to the surface to create a totally solid platform -- or a platform under a few inches or feet of water. (That was very cool, technically speaking.) Also, the performers were helped while underwater by stage hands in scuba gear, i.e. in fins, wet suits, tanks, and regulators. (I know that from a bit of a television special I watched a few years ago.) So at one point, they raised the floor -- and raised about four stage hands with it. They flopped around feebly like fish out of water. It was bizarre and incomprehensible, except as an expression of the postmodernist ideal of breaking the "barrier" between audience and production. Pathetically enough, that was just one of the distractions during some act that I can no longer remember.

Even the acrobatics of "O" seemed less impressive than those of "Mystere," but I can't say for certain. I might have simply been too distracted by all the goings-on. That would be far worse in a way, undoubtedly. The performers deserved better, namely production that focused the audience on their daring and dangerous stunts rather than on the unicyclist whizzing across the front of the stage.

So I definitely do not recommend wasting your money on "O" -- unless you actually enjoy postmodernist nightmares.

Happily, we very much enjoyed a far better show for far cheaper: The Mac King Show. It's an afternoon comedy-magic show at Harrah's. The magic was delightful, the comedy was funny, and it only cost $10. That I can recommend without reservation!

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