I have never been a fan of a circus, the 9-ring one, with the lion, the monkey and silly clowns.. until I was convinced by a friend back in 1999 to come and watch Cirque du Soleil in Sydney Showground, at that time was still in the border of the leafy Randwick and Kensington suburbs.
It was set under the grand chapiteau or the big tent and it was played in the evening towards the end of summer. The title of the show was Saltimbanco, which ran non-stop for an approximately 90 minutes. Afterwards, I was totally converted to be a die-hard fan of Cirque du Soleil.
Originated and based out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Cirque du Soleil or French for Circus of the Sun, was established in 1984 by two former street performers Guy Laliberte and Daniel Gauthier. Cirque expanded rapidly through the 1990s and 2000s, going from one show with 73 employees in 1984 to approximately 3500 employees from over 40 countries producing 15 shows over every continent.
Each show has its own central theme and storyline, and the performers have their gear and attire aligned with the main theme, set with a live music performed complete with its singer(s) and musician(s).
Here are their 3 shows which I have watched either live or recorded relayed on television.
From the Italian ‘saltare in banco’ which literally means ‘to jump on a bench, explores the urban experience in all its myriad forms: the people who live there, their idiosyncrasies and likeness, families and groups. Saltimbanco is a Cirque signature show inspired by the urban fabric of the metropolis and its colorful inhabitants. Decidedly baroque in its visual vocabulary, the show’s eclectic casts of characters draw spectators into a fanciful, dreamlike world, an imaginary city where diversity is a cause for hope.
Laliberte stated that ‘For me, Saltimbanco is a message of peace. In the 1990s, immigration was an issue, the mixing of cultures in cities, and Saltimbanco reflects that mix, with all of its personalities and colors. It’s the challenge we have in today’s world: respecting each other, living and working together, despite our difference.’
Featuring 47 artists, the cast has been assembled from the citizens of 15 different countries.
Cirque came back to Sydney in 2001 with its title Alegria. Played in the same location at the Sydney Showground, this time the mood was different from the previous show. The concept was sad, dark, heavy, really hard: ‘Alegria!, Alegria! Alegria!’, its’ Spanish for ‘Joy! Joy! Joy!’, it’s actually what one say when he/she is in pain. It means life goes on.
Frances Gagnon, who played the most famous ‘The White Singer’ character, has twice been invited to reprise the Alegria title song at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The music of Alegria has proven extremely popular and the show’s soundtrack remains the best-selling Cirque’s album to date.
Kooza tells the story of the Innocent, a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world. Between strength and fragility, laughter and smiles, turmoil and harmony, Kooza explores themes of fear, recognition and power. The show is set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills, chills, audacity and total involvements.
Although I watched this show relayed on TV, I still can feel the magic of Cirque, especially during the unicycle high speed Wheel of Death, navigated in the air by 2 performers. I was mesmerized by the trio contortion, its agility and strengths. It is like seeing the paradox of life, differences which build to a union of strengths.
The musical theme was inspired by South Asian (Indian) sounds. This show was directed by David Shiner, with past experience as being a clown and working with the Swiss National Circus, are definitely an influence on the lighthearted and whimsical nature of the Kooza production.
I can’t wait for another opportunity to watch Cirque’s show live… to feel the energy, power, skill and playfulness of a hgh caliber world-class entertainment.