Cirque du Soleil defies traditional circus

Cirque du Soleil took the audience by surprise in an astonishing set of performances in its opening performance Wednesday night at the Long Beach Convention Center. With approximately 30 acrobats and artists along with six main characters, the “Quidam” theme takes the audience through a world of free spirit, soaring through the world of all possibility beyond belief.

“Quidam” is as a nameless passer-by; the person who seeks individuality amongst a society where everyone is the same, lost in a crowd of anonymity. The young girl, Zoé, is a curious individual who seeks attention from her parents. They, unfortunately, have fallen into their own closed-minded lives, leaving no room for interests. Nonetheless, she is exposed to the new world of Quidam with a flip of a hat, where she is invited to free her soul.

“Quidam” runs for about an hour-and-a-half with a 20-minute intermission. Although souvenirs can reach up to 50 dollars for a sweatshirt and ticket sales ranging from $60 to $120, the experience is like no other.

The show began by introducing its characters, Zoé; Mother and Father; Target, Zoé’s faithful companion throughout her journey; Boum-Boum, an aggressive but lifeless soul still stuck within his body; the Aviator, not sure of his ability or non-ability of flight or even the existence of his skeletal wings; and finally John, the ambiguous ringmaster.

A rather impressive group of acrobats performed throughout the show, displaying acts of technicality, coordination and outstanding balance.

Intense live music including a violin, cello, percussions, saxophone, electric and classical guitar and keyboard accompanied the acts. The soundtrack added intensity to the acts themselves. With fast progressive Italian folk of the violin to slow, eerie Arabic tunes with classical guitar, it was an ensemble of world music that kept the theme going throughout the storyline.

“Quidam” also introduced the use of a child’s voice, performed by Zoé, combined with a strong male voice to give the perfect harmony.

The first act was the German Wheel, in which the artist was encircled and spins within a doubled metal hoop, twisting and turning while performing gravity-defying somersaults just inches from the corners of the stage. The maneuvers kept the audience on the edge of their seats as the acrobat rolled across the stage at full speed and abruptly came to a halt on the other end.

Next up was the Diabolos, or Chinese yo-yo, performed by four enthusiastic Asian-like acrobats, each juggling a wooden spool on a rope linked by two sticks. They performed with rising intensity, switching spools by tossing them high above the stage- performing acrobats themselves while they waited — and caught the spools to continue juggling. They’d try to out-do eachother, becoming more technical and creative as they went.

Followed by every other act were in-between scenes, which involved not only the main characters, but also an interactive set by members of the audience. Clown conducted the acts, such as the “Romance Scene,” where he picked a young woman. They acted out a dating scene or the “Movie Shoot,” where Clown picked four audience members to star in his film. With plenty of room for improvising, as far as the audience went, Clown carried out more humorous and indulging acts to compliment the storyline.

Instruments like the violin and classical guitar softened the mood and the singers sang an Italian-style opera to set the scene for the next act: the Aerial Contortion. It was a slow and seductive, yet dangerous act performed with a red velvet silk cloth hanging from the arch.

The arch, better known as the Téléphérique, was constructed of five aluminum rails with 120 feet in length and approximately 50 feet above the stage transported performers and acrobat equipment from the back to front of the stage; a key element in the stellar show of the of the acrobats’ performance.

The fast-paced style returned when the group of 20 acrobats took the stage in a festive act of mass jump roping. Technical moves of double jumping and multiple jumpers in one rope showed variations and a lot creativity. Multiple ropes swinging forced the act to strict coordination where a group of jumpers even found themselves jumping within three different ropes at different speeds.

Throughout the show, the acts used symbolic objects of the storyline. The juggling act used objects such as the bowler hat, an umbrella, a briefcase and red balls to identify with the characters and the journey they’ve partaken.

“Statue,” or “Vise Versa” act, was one of the most impressive and greatly appreciated performances by the audience, as they roared in applause after every performed stunt. Two acrobats positioned themselves in some incredible abstract angles, with much flexibility while never losing contact — a matter of complete balance and absolute precision.

The final act invited all the acrobats to the stage where they participated in an array of synchronized movements and agility of the human body’s power and strength. The Banquine, an award-winning showcase that astonished the audience, resembled the gymnastics performed in the Olympics. With a few slips from misbalance by one acrobat, the performances still became a fan favorite when a petite female acrobat was tossed atop a tower of four acrobats standing on top of eachother.

“Quidam” will run at the Long Beach Convention Center until April 24, before heading to Ontario on April 27. 

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