Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Cirque Du Soleil: Totem - The Magic of the Old School Circus Mixed with Contemporary Entertainment

I loved the circus as a child. I loved the smell of fresh popcorn in the air. I loved the massive, colourful tent that promised unbelievable wonders inside. I loved the magic that was inside that tent, and how it shipped me off into another world. A world that was full of clowns, elephants, gymnasts, stuntmen, and daredevils. I loved how the circus made me feel, and how it yanked out so many emotions. I laughed, I gasped, I screamed, and I loved. I loved the circus.

I am now almost 34 years old, and my mortgage and bills and clients and wife all say I can't be a kid anymore. But sometimes I can go to places that make me feel like a child again, and bring back that wonder that once drove me day to day. Cirque du Soleil is exactly the event that does that. It may not be the circus that I remember as a child, but it still feels the same. It contains the magic.

Cirque du Soleil is not your traditional Ringling Brothers Circus, but rather prides itself on being a contemporary circus (whatever such a term may mean). It doesn't contain any animals, which has been a conscious decision (there have been years of reported abuse towards circus animals by other major circus shows). It doesn't contain the usually three rings. It follows a theme and storyline (though usually as a way to loosely connect each act and add to the pageantry). There is clowns, but rarely do they resemble the traditional North American version. The costumes and sets are very surreal and 'artsy'. It is a different kind of circus than I remember growing up, but it has the most important part, the magic.

Totem was the third Cirque du Soleil performance I've attended. My first time was over four years ago, and I remember instantly channeling the 8 year old inside of me. I remember being enamoured and frightened by the "Wheel of Death:, which is one of the most death defying acts that I've ever witnessed live. Ever since that point, whenever I hear about a Cirque du Soleil show performing in the area, I look to grab up tickets (oh okay, I get Emily to go find tickets). The interesting thing about Cirque du Soleil is they aren't satisfied with what they've done. The company has put on numerous events with each containing different themes and acts. Not every show has been a resounding success. I absolutely loved Kooza, but was not as captivated with their take on vaudeville acts, Banana Shpeel. I can appreciate their attempt to try new things, and to continue to keep the shows fresh. This desire is one of the reasons they're one of the most popular shows in the entire world (right now, they have shows all over the globe).

Totem is back to focusing on death defying stunts and skilled physical acts. There is still a few clown acts thrown in, that for the most part is an entertaining intermission in between the real draws of the show. Though I was denied the "Wheel of Death", there was a few other incredible stunts and performances that caused me to drop my jaw. I was particularly amazed by the fixed trapeze duo and long metal perches group. Though, the show was full of acts that required courage, talents, and skill. For example, a couple on roller skates may not seem impressive, but that would change once you see what they do together (I have enough trouble just standing in roller blades). Though it isn't dangerous, it is always impressive seeing a person spin a piece of cloth on their foot, which is a staple of many of the shows. It is fantastic performances you can't see in many places, and in a setting that exudes magic.

The theme of the show is the evolution of species, and looks at the many myths/beliefs of the progression of life. I see the themes and setting az more just icing on a magical show. It helps tie in each act, and allows for ongoing theme in the costumes. You shouldn't be expecting any in depth story or true look in the creation myths. It was an interesting concept, that helps add some atmosphere to the show.

The theme of various stories throughout the world and mankind, allowed for a bit of exploration into different cultures. This allowed for some music and costumes that nodded towards aboriginal, African, and Asian cultures. Then it also allowed for acts that where founded in those particular cultures. For example, there was a hoops dance, where the dancer did some marvelous tricks with several hoops, that was a homage to Native American groups. The music and costumes deifinitely added to the feel of the show, but also shows a appreciation to the diversity of this world.

Totem is yet another huge success in the long line of magnificent and magical modern circus shows by Cirque du Soleil. It might not be the classic circus, but it knows how to bring back that classic wonder. You will feel the magic that you remember as a child. It will be a absolutely magical evening of death defying entertainment.

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