10/23/16 – A Perfect Circus Moment

I recently saw Cirque Du Soleil’s, Kurios. And I have to be honest… my expectations were not that high.  I find their recent creations have been a bit same-y. Cirque Du Soleil has created a very strong brand aesthetic, however, I find that brand often supersedes the  theme of the individual show.  So instead of each Cirque show looking like something new it just looks like another Cirque show.

As soon as you step into the big top at Kurios it feels familiar, but like its own world. The standard neon and sparkle are replaced with tarnished metal and worn leather. Odd automaton roam the sepia set, with jolts of electricity and glass cases everywhere. The theme is strong with this show, and it makes for an awesome experience.

The power of this show is epitomized by one act. This act perfectly embodies the magic of circus and the way it can tell a story unlike any other medium: the Séance/chair balancing act. The brilliance is taking these two seemingly incongruous things and building them into a world together. It all starts innocently enough; we are gathered around a table, there’s a young man with a troubling question, an aging mystic, and someone else to pad out the scene. As the party begins, a chandelier magically flies up into the air, prompting an acrobat to begin placing chairs upon the table so he can reach higher. A basic story like this provides a jumping off point for a circus act  and is a common phenomena. The theme provides us with a starting location then once the acrobat is up we just let them do what they do.

In a standard act, the climax comes when the acrobat reaches the chandelier.  Now the acrobat has attained his original goal, bringing us back to our established theme of the séance and after a handstand or two he climbs back down.  But no! This act is so much more.  Instead, as the acrobat reaches for the floating chandelier it flies up once again, all the way to the top of the tent. However,  when the chandelier arrives there we are titillated to find another table with a group of identical people at their own séance. Now from a reverse perspective we see the chandelier float away from its upside down table world and fall towards us. We are treated to not one, but two chair balancing acts: one climbing up and one climbing down. Now this is an act where the theme and skill are completely interwoven. A séance is a meeting between our world and another invisible or ‘upside down’ world, and that is literally what we are seeing with the skills on stage: the visual metaphor of Circus supporting the thematic metaphors of the larger piece. This to me is a moment of circus perfection. So often, story, theme, and circus all seem to be getting in each others way, but in moments like this one they all pull together and serve to elevate themselves to a truly unique art form that makes me proud to call myself a circus artist.