I loved the circus growing up. This was before we were really cognizant of the abuse of the animals. This was probably the Shriner’s Circus and Barnum and Bailey’s Traveling Circus, but it usually meant some lions and some tigers, some horses, a few elephants and some other odds and ends. It was fun, but that was fun from another time. A time that has passed. Now, Circuses are largely dead or have morphed into various variations on the theme. One of my favorites over the last 20 years has become Cirque. Or, more specifically, Cirque du Soleil.
I was speaking with someone recently and this subject came up and they observed “Don’t hate me, but I just don’t like Cirque du Soleil”. Don’t hate? No hate, for sure, but some quiet judging probably took place. And an internal observation that you can just be wrong about things and I need to keep my damn mouth shut!
Per ChatGPT, so it may or may not be true: “Cirque du Soleil was founded on June 16, 1984. It was established in Quebec, Canada, by two street performers named Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix. The company initially started as a small troupe of performers and gradually grew into a global phenomenon, known for its mesmerizing circus arts and theatrical productions. Cirque du Soleil has since produced numerous highly acclaimed shows and has become one of the most recognized and successful circus companies in the world.”
I’ve been seeing Cirque shows for at least 20 years. Usually, it was whatever traveling Cirque show came through Portland, where we lived. I recall at list the following: Alegria, Dralion, Saltimbanco and Varekai.
Cirque would put up a large tent either south or later north of downtown Portland, a tent large enough to be seen from quite a distance, and stay in town for ten days or so. I took the kids several times as well as other family and friends. I went for my birthday and whatever excuse came up. I probably went to almost all of the Cirque shows that came through town.
Vegas has a number of them at fixed theaters, currently the following:
- KÀ at MGM
- MAD APPLE at New York, New York
- Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay
- Mystère at Treasure Island
- O at Bellagio
- The Beatles LOVE at The Mirage
Just look at the thumbnails for these shows. I love the art and the artistry!
For the uninitiated, what comprises a Cirque show? First, no animals. It’s just humans doing amazing things with their bodies. Oftentimes there are folks dressed up as animals, both fantastical and normal. Sometimes and characters that are not human or not very human looking, they are fantastical as well.
There is always awesome music. Again, per ChatGPT:
Cirque du Soleil shows incorporate a wide variety of musical genres, and the specific genre can vary depending on the theme and style of each production. However, Cirque du Soleil is known for creating original soundtracks that often combine elements from multiple genres to create a unique and immersive musical experience.
In many Cirque du Soleil shows, you can find a fusion of different musical styles, including orchestral compositions, world music influences, pop, rock, electronic, jazz, and traditional folk music from various cultures. The music is often designed to complement the visuals and enhance the storytelling, creating a cohesive and captivating experience for the audience.
Cirque du Soleil collaborates with talented composers, musicians, and sound designers to create original scores that are tailored to each show’s theme and atmosphere. The music in Cirque du Soleil shows is an integral part of the overall production and contributes to the magical and transformative nature of the performances.
It’s a French-Canadian production, so there is usually a number of languages spoken or sung during the shows.
They are usually an hour and a half or so, maybe as much as a couple hours. They each have a unique theme and costumes and music, making each Cirque show unique, which is probably why I enjoy catching each one I see.
The traveling shows may be limited, but only slightly, by being in a large tent, but that’s not the case for the fixed shows. They benefit from having a large purpose-built stage to fit their show.
In fact, ‘O’ includes an incredible aquatic stage that holds 1.5 million gallons of water! The dimensions of the tank are approximately 150 feet (45 meters) long by 120 feet (37 meters) wide, with a depth of about 25 feet (7.6 meters). The tank is used as part of the show and allows for amazing water-based performances, including synchronized swimming, high dives, and acrobatic acts. It’s incredibly unique, even amongst the Cirque shows.
So, yes, I love a Cirque show.
All of that was the lead-in for the following: Yesterday we went to see something called Cirque Italia: Paranormal Cirque here in Longview.
Now, it’s fair to say that Longview doesn’t get a lot of entertainment here in town. It’s a small town between Portland and Seattle and it’s not very big. So, Christina and I were both surprised to see the tent set up on the Fairgrounds with a large sign over it.
Tickets were reasonably priced and there seemed to be plenty of seats available even though we didn’t see the tent till Thursday and we decided to go see the show on Sunday. Maybe Longview isn’t the hotbed of Cirque fandom that it should be!
This was the first I had heard of Cirque Italia, so I had to look up what it was. I would probably describe it as Cirque du Soleil’s cousin. Little cousin. Maybe a less successful but well-intentioned cousin. But, a cousin nonetheless.
The format of a Cirque Italia show is very much like that of the traveling Cirque du Soleil shows but on a budget. Smaller tent, not quite the production quality, sitting in the middle of a fairgrounds in Longview. But, Cirque nonetheless!
In this case, the theme of the traveling show was “Paranormal Cirque”. Which, in this case, meant a kind of goth-lite Cirque. A traveling Cirque show on a budget crossed with a Spirit Halloween costumer. And add some “adult language”. Like, lots of cursing. And some cleavage.
(I think we even had two protesters outside of the parking lot!)
The bones were recognizable, certainly, and it was definitely striving to be its own thing, but it was hard to avoid comparison.
To be clear, we had a good time! I managed to score a “buy-one, get-one” deal on our tickets and the tent was small enough that there wasn’t really a bad seat, so it was a reasonably priced night of entertainment and we didn’t have a long drive home!
So, sure, I know Cirque isn’t for everyone and No, I don’t expect that everyone has to like what I like. But, for a couple hours on a Sunday Night, everyone in that tent had a good time watching acrobats, dancers, sword swallowers, and some light comedy between acts finishing with high-rise acrobatics around a spinning wheel of death! That’s pretty good in general and really good for local entertainment!
Featured Image from MidJourney.