The hallucinatory dreamworld of Cirque du Soleil |

The hallucinatory dreamworld of Cirque du Soleil

At an ordinary circus ” as if any true circus can really be “ordinary” ” you watch astonishing feats and ask, “How did they do that?”

At Cirque du Soleil, you watch wondrous feats and ask, “How did they think of that?”

The feats themselves ” on the purely physical level ” are not so very different. The Cirque du Soleil performers are perhaps more brilliant athletes than your average circus performers ” many are world-class gymnasts, looking for a life beyond the narrow confines of national teams ” but still, what you see is essentially the same: acts of impressive physical strength and balance and flexibility and daring. (And, one must note, the Cirque du Soleil has no animal acts.)

But the framework within which those acts are set is so very different as to transform the acts themselves.

There are no rings, no sawdust, no tired spangles, no steam calliope, no ringmaster.

Instead, the Cirque du Soleil delves deep into a hallucinatory dreamworld. The performers ” like all great circus performers ” seem to defy the normal laws of physics and human ability. But more than that, the world within which they perform seems to defy normal expectations, normal experience, normal cause and effect.

While acrobats perform on center stage, strange half-monsters wander casually through the scene. Images half-remembered from some long-ago dream appear and ” before you can stop to think ” they are gone.

The title of the show at the Bellagio is “O.” That is a pun in Cirque du Soleil’s French-speaking world on the word “eau,” which means “water” ” and the show is performed in and around a vast indoor sea … some 1.5 million gallons of water. At times the entire stage is awash; at times, it is bone dry. Sometimes the water is shallow enough for wading; sometimes it is deep enough for death-defying high dives.

The shifting nature of the stage ” from solid to liquid and back again ” reflects and enhances the ever-changing nature of the world that Cirque du Soleil creates.

Shall I say you have to experience it to understand it?

You do ” except that “understand” is too strong a word. You will not understand it. But you will, I promise you, enjoy it. (Except that “enjoy” is too weak a word.)

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