Rejoice all ye people! Circus came to town

Tiit Tuumalu

When it comes to having circus, we’re still a developing country. Rarely does a clown come to town – a Western one. For the most part, we will have to do with the Eastern stuff, stuck somewhere deep in Classicism. As if there was no circus revolution, 40 years back.

So it’s quite a blessing to, at least, have a new circus flagship, the Canadian based Cirque du Soleil back again, for a second helping. Better late than never. And: nothing wrong with the scenario of circus industry coming around, planting a seed, thereby perhaps cracking the door open for circuses exceeding entertainment and delving further than cheap jesting, touching both soul and spirit.

Or simply more personal – be it in the sense of trust or genuineness of feelings.

Never lose hope

Don’t get me wrong. Cirque du Soleil is the circus pop culture. A factory aimed to produce quality entertainment. With 19 productions underway, the world over. Yearly turnover of $1bn. Owner, former fire-eater and street artist Guy Laliberté, a couple of years ago purchased himself a tourist ticket to outer space.

Their spectacles, overly theatrical on purpose, have scale and pomp, kitsch and loud live music, screaming colours, fantastical figures, loose narrative – with Alegria contrasting budding youth and withering oldness, also hinting at fall of hierarchical power, a retreat before limitless life-joy. A bit poetic, in between.

At first, the lively buzz may catch one off guard, come as a shock. Which, thinking of the younger public, may not be bad at all… to lead them into the new circus traditions – especially after former lazy-like circus with just tricks in a row.

One thing is certain: its size allows Cirque du Soleil to hire the very top artists – and the technical perfection and complexity of tricks is obvious and evident in Alegria, as well. Starting with synchronised trapeze acrobat duo Ella Fenwick and Zebastian Hunter doing their love thing and winding up with the grand finale of nine acrobats flying breakneck style above our heads.

Compared to the Saltimbanco-show, visiting Tallinn a year and a half ago, genre-wise the picture differs, somewhat. Being, perhaps, slightly more attractive, even: no jugglers at all, more emphasis on acrobatics, trampoline track and bungee rope use, flexibility stretched to the max by Mongolian acrobats Ulzibujan Mergen and Ojun-Erdene Senge. Unbelievable skills demonstrated by equilibrist Deniss Tolstov, a Ukrainian.

Chinese mast is replaced by Russian bar – a flat plank held on shoulders, from which acrobats are flung into flips. The same art was acquired by our ballerina Teele Ude, who travelled the world with Wintuk – another Cirque du Soleil’ spectacle. Here, the acrobats amount to nine, mainly from Russia – surprise? – and all are highest class.

The flaming knives dance (Micah Naruo and Robert King) bursts with testosterone; the blades are hurled around with incredible speed, the stage briefly set on fire, the performers slightly burned themselves.

The clowns, however, are more subdued, not as blatant as in Saltimbanco. Nevertheless, the public may not rest easy – one has to count the cost of being led to the stage. An unhappy someone was indeed tricked out of the hall – for a clown to take a triumphant seat next to his girlfriend.

The show is at its most poetic and pathetic with the Meeting in Train Station Followed by Snowstorm – introduced by the famed Russian clown Slava Polunin, himself doing it in Cirque du Soleil, 20 years back. On that act, the Slava’s SnowShow is based, known to our viewers at least via TV.

Alas, the magnificent and delicate episode fails to have its full impact from long distance, being meant for more intimate space. Rather, it almost feels foreign in the otherwise mostly anonymous spectacle playing on the big and the bang, rather, and not on shades of feelings.

The talk is that, right now, Cirque du Soleil is not in its best of times. Financially, at least. Last year, it finished in the red – a first for its nearly 30-years history. Meaning: living beyond its means. Now, 400 people will be sacked. None of the artists, yet.

Sad. And yet – who knows, maybe it’s positive news? Maybe this means returning to the roots, even a tiny bit? Back to where they began, with the genuine new circus – creative, anti-hierarchical, immediate?

Anyway, one still does desire a third helping of Cirque du Soleil. But then, let it be something fresh. Fresher than the 20-years-old Alegria and Saltimbanco.

Cirque du Soleil

Alegria

Director: Franco Dragone. Composer: René Dupéré. Art Director: Michel Crête. Costumes Designer: Dominique Lemieux. Lights Director: Luc Lafortune. Choreography: Debra Brown

In Tallinn April 3rd to 7th

Saku Suurhall Arena

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