By the end of the first round of Cirque du Soleil's bows, the audience was on its feet in a standing ovation. And it is no wonder that the crowd was so pleased: the Cirque's show, Alegría, was mesmerizing from the first big act to the last.
Here are a few highlights from Alegría.
The show began to grab the audience's attention with a brief introduction by clowns and the band who marched through the floor seats and grabbed an audience member or two for a moment of embarrassment in front of the stadium beginning to fill.
After the band retreated, the oaf-like "old money" characters began to blumber around stage (as they would for the rest of the performance, often helping but mostly just just emphasizing the difference between the performer's grace and their clumsy awe). And finally, the first big spectacle began.
A man ascended onto a rope swing held high above the audience and earned gasps and applause as he swung higher and higher, dipping and pirouetting and otherwise acting no way someone so high above the ground on such a small swing should act.
After him and most of the acts, clowns took the stage. As someone who normally only laughs at clowns because I feel a little sorry for them and their not-so-funny sense of humor, I couldn't stop cracking up at these. They were fabulously funny, and a real treat between the intense, edge-of-your seat performances.
An incredible trampoline act followed in which acrobatic performers flip-flopped, cartwheeled, somersaulted, and otherwise threw themselves into the air alternately crossing close to each other in unison or taking the stage one-by-one. The most captivating part of the trampolines for me was the performers' ability to seemingly tumble in slow motion, launching themselves from the trampolines to a gymnastic position held in all but a standstill in mid air.
More clowns, then another one of my personal favorite acts came on: a man who balanced himself on his hands on two sets of progressively higher blocks all the while showing off his inherent purely muscular flexibility and control. He twisted himself into insane positions, mesmerizing the audience who never knew what new shape the human body would assume next.
Fire jugglers came on next, followed by a ribbon dancer with incredible flexibility who transitioned into a hula-hoop type act. Her act proceeded intermission.
After intermission, more spell binders came on. A man who defied gravity in a large hoop spun around stage much like a quarter would your desk, if you spun if very fast. A tribal-like ritual then introduced bar-jumpers to the crowd. The bar-jumping act consisted of men hoisting beams with other men on them who flipped themselves to unbelievable heights into the air.
The least funny, but most poignant, clown act captured the audience's hearts when a lone clown went on a journey, first having a melancholy good bye with himself, then roaming through a cold and wintry countryside alone. This clown act ended with a snow storm blowing through the stage and out onto the audience, highlighting the audience member's individual journeys alone through the cold world in search of whatever the clown too sought.
The final two acts were contortionists who you can only believe if you see and a trapeze act. The contortionists performed as a pair, twisting themselves into positions that I would have thought only one person on the planet could do, if there hadn't been two of them. The final act, the trapeze act, was the perfect conclusion to Cirque's Alegría, showcasing men who can only do what they do with total trust of their fellow performers and with impeccable, perfected timing. In a way, the trapeze act as the finalé gives the audience a goal to work towards, an ideal to attain. That trust and timing that keeps us on the edge of our seats can keep us on the edge of our seats through life, too, if we dare to take the risk.
Photo: Courtesy Cirque du Soleil