A Happy Funeral at the Big Top

Cirque du Soleil
August 4, 2005
A performance of Cirque du Soleil is truly full of surprises. If a bevy of Canadian celebrities like Kurt Browning and familiar faces from the Chum Television and Toronto 1 in the crowd don't whet your appetite for the performance of a lifetime, perhaps the divinely air conditioned blue and yellow tents lined with gourmet goodies and helpful staff will. Many of the staff who worked on Corteo's creative process were Cirque du Soleil first-timers - although this was not apparent in the near flawless performance and vision of the piece. Most of Cirque du Soleil's performers surprisingly don't have a background in the circus arts, in fact most are noted gymnasts from around the world.

Corteo is all about a clown picturing his own funeral as a carnival parade, but it's not depressing as one may think. The story line was very episodic, and in all honesty didn't matter to the overall performance. The dream-like setting of Corteo was a lot like Moulin Rouge in costuming and had two magnificent transparent skrims decorated with angels dancing with clowns in lovely pale blue and pastel colours. The performance was done in the round, but the audience was only surrounding the stage from one side or the other, the performers entrances and exits were made to walk directly through the circle so both audiences could see the brilliance of the acrobatics, the singing angels floating above, and the somberly breathtaking costumes of the circus in the Victorian era.

The music you hear throughout the show is a lot like Enya, but there are some ensemble arrangements for the performers who either sing or speak in English, French, or Italian. Although all of the performance left me in complete awe, some stand out moments of the evening were when a woman put on some ballet shoes and tip toed across a tight rope, uni-cycled across the rope, walked across hula hooping with a couple of hoops, and walked up an incline on a tight rope with ease.

Another mouth dropping segment was when the lead clown brought out a little woman who was sitting in a swing that was attached to massive clear balloons. The clown pushed her out into the audience and she said, "Hello, bonjour!" to the crowd in a very high voice that was so endearing. You think to yourself, "Am I dreaming, or am I actually seeing a little woman float in front of me attached to massive clear balloons?" There was also a great choreographed portion of the show where the performers were dressed as little kids and were bouncing on these huge trampoline beds. The girls would dive from one bed to the other, the guys would do spins in the air and land perfectly on the bed posts, and one guy bounced a girl (who was scrunched up in a ball) as if she were a basketball...you have to see it to believe it.

I suggest you get your tickets now, as Corteo is only in Toronto until September 11. So, aside from the celebrities, gourmet treats, and divine comedy, many different styles of performance art were included in Corteo; it's surreal dramatics mixed with a variety of impressively trained gymnastic performers that will blow your mind. The music isn't like Arcade Fire, but the soundtrack is a must-have for those of you interested in discovering or keeping the magic of the performance alive.

Visit www.cirquedusoleil.com for more information.

Writer: Lindsay Whitfield

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