Cirque du Soleil: AlegríA

AlegríA is about the victory of light over darkness. It’s about the quest for knowledge and the will to survive. AlegríA, which means ‘joy’ in Spanish, is Cirque du Soleil’s refurbished production, first presented in 1994 and now back with new costumes and a new look.

AlegríA has been seen by over 14 million people in 255 cities around the world. It toured for 19 years, from 1994 to 2013. And now it’s back, bigger than before.

Most of the characters are back, even if the performers themselves are new. There are acrobats, aerial acts, comedian/clowns, a Cyr wheel artist, trapeze flyers, and fire manipulators. There is not a lot of toss juggling. The fire sequence is the closest thing and it’s presented with Pacific Islander’s costumes and music. There is a central master fire juggler and several novices on the sidelines.

There are a lot of props burning at once and it’s very hot looking. It also smells very strong, the odor of burning fuel wafting throughout the huge tent. The master starts with a staff with one end lit. He spins it and twirls it. He touches his hand to the wick and brings a bit of flame to the other side and lights opposite end.

He spins the burning staff faster and faster and includes a body roll over the neck and around his chest. He occasionally tosses it in the air and catches it. He finishes by sticking it in his mouth.

The Cyr wheel act is innovative. The wheel is doubled. It looks like a little globe. The artist is able to stop on a dime and change directions. He spins forward and back and from side to side.

 

Other notable acts were the trampoline jumpers and the trapeze flyers. The trampolines were lined up crisscrossing the entire stage. The jumpers travel the entire length of the stage, bouncing higher and higher, barely missing each other, and finishing with a twisting double flip or a triple flip.

The trapeze act was unique. The flyers stood on a platform at the highest point in the tent while the trapeze swung just below them. Two catchers on the swinging trapeze caught and tossed the flyers as they jumped down from the stationary platform. It was thrilling to watch them execute such precise and daring stunts while listening to the musical score and the collective gasps and sighs from the audience.

There is also a contortionist hula hooper. She spins a hoop on her foot while maintaining an extended high kick. She bends over backwards (to entertain you) while keeping the hoop spinning. She goes on to spin four and five and finishes with a tied stack.

An equilibrist does one and two handed hand-stands on a block on a pole. She assumes artistic positions and turns 360 degrees.

The lights go down and the wind starts to blow. It starts to snow. Soon the tent is barely lit at all as a wave of (paper) snow fills the air. The ‘blizzard’ is reminiscent of ‘Slava’s Snowshow,’ an iconic production created by Russian clown Slava Polunin.

“AlegríA in a New Light” as it is now called, was created by Franco Dragone and Gilles Ste-Croix. The music is some of Cirque du Soleil’s best. The soundtrack album was nominated for several Grammy awards. It has sold over 500,000 copies making it their best selling album. The music is composed by René Dupéré, who also composed the music for Mystére, Saltimbanco, and Nouvelle Expérience. For the current production, the music has been newly arranged and remixed.

There are currently 24 active Cirque du Soleil productions being performed around the world. There are also 24 retired productions. There are also three new productions being developed and opening next year.

The face of circus is changing. Ringling Brothers is no more. ‘Live’ performance in general is competing with tv, cinema, and free internet entertainment. But there will never be anything that can replace the excitement that a skilled performer risking his life can generate in front of a crowd of laughing and gasping, men, women, children, teenagers, and transgender people.

AlegríA is heading next to Texas, then Chicago and Washington.

Raphael Harris

Raphael Harris was the proprietor of the Jerusalem Circus School for Children for over ten years. He has performed "Sir Juggley's One Man Circus" over a thousand times. He appeared in the Guiness Book of World Records twice and the Record Setters Book of World Records three times. He lives in New York.

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