Kurios – a review

14556098_10154598839084809_521799989_n“Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities,” a new Cirque du Soleil production written and directed by Michel Laprise premiered in Montreal on April 24th 2014. It is currently playing in New York City (on Randell’s Island), and will proceed on November 27th to Miami, Dallas, Houston, Winnipeg, Portland, and Vancouver; then on to Central and South America, followed by Europe and Asia.

img_20161001_144507After the plot-heavy Toruk and Paramour, Kurios returns to the plotless (but strongly themed) format, the new-circus sensibility. Original live music, fantastic costumes, no animals, and high-level circus skills with a fresh approach is the order of the day, including an extended juggling routine.

In the very first act the featured juggler, Gabriel Beaudoin, performs an extended routine. Gabby studied five years at the École Cirque de Quebec in Quebec City, and four years at the École Cirque Nationale in Montreal. His style strongly reflects his training in dance and acrobatics. He moves with grace and power before, during, and after his flawless tricks which start with three white clubs, decorated with orange mylar to match his orange cashmere sweater. He flashes the three, does a pirouette, then catches all three with overhead claw throws, continues a cascade, then places one on his head for a balance stall. He lets the balance drop and catches it behind him and between his legs. Beautiful.

Next a full shower of over the shoulder throws with blind catches behind the back. A pirouette between each trick, then a head balance to handle catches (using the handle to trap the other club) on his wrist. Rolls of the clubs over the back of the neck, hits of each in the air by the handle to a reverse spin. Someone then tosses him a fourth club and he does a quick four club fountain, tosses the fourth back out, and continues with three to multiple pirouettes, then stops with a behind the back catch and does an acrobatic stunt.
img_20161001_191009Next he takes up the fourth again and does a fountain in singles and doubles, and is handed a walking stick. The stick goes up to a balance on the head while doing the four in singles. He then drops the stick in and does five with the clubs and stick. He stops and the tension breaks and the audience explodes in applause. A moment later he’s at it again. He juggles the four clubs and stick, tosses the stick to someone, then grabs a fifth club from someone else and does five. A club up to a balance, while tossing four then lets the balance fall forward and catches all five at once, the four in his hands and the balance under his chin.

He throws two away, does another dance/acrobatic move and juggles three. While doing the move you don’t really notice that someone attaches something to him but suddenly while juggling the three he is lifted high into the air by a wire attached to his belt and he doesn’t stop. He is suddenly 50 feet up and juggling still. A truly astonishing sight. He didn’t stop, fly up there, then start again; he was juggling the whole time he was being lifted. And the guy never drops. Absolutely thrilling and the audience showed their appreciation with great enthusiasm. A dynamic opening number.

img_20161001_144127 img_20161001_191528The characters are introduced and they are truly a bunch of crazies- Mr. Microcosmos with a big mechanical belly, Mini Lili who lives in his belly, The Seeker, a mad scientist trying to save the world by subjecting it to his dimension-shifting inventions, Nico the According Man who has his ups and downs, and Klara the Hoop Skirt Chick who taps into the unseen sound and energy waves.

The 19th century style industrial revolution loony tunes inventions are the Seeker’s tools to open the porthole to the impossible for the sake of saving the world from the dangers of the non-extraordinary. So the precession continues.

img_20161001_144243What follows is a series of circus acts gleaned from the four corners of the earth and jazzed up with the Kurios stylized live music and costuming.

The Russian cradle duo – he tosses her, she flips and flies, he catches her and they do it again. A little harder each time.

The Aerial Bike – the artist uses the suspended two-wheeler, sometimes as an artistic bicycle, sometimes as a trapeze.

The Chinese contortionists – bending over backwards to please you, while doing handstands on each others’ knees.

Acronet – a team of flyers using a forty foot long safety net like a giant trampoline and twisting and flipping in all directions, barely missing each other by a hair.

img_20161001_181849Aerial straps, a ‘better’ yo-yo artist (conventional yo-yo), a chair stack with upside down alter ego, some clownish audience participation segments and a rola bola.

Not just any rola bola. James Eulises Gonzalez Correa from Colombia is the rola bola master of the world. When Michel Laprise, the director discovered him he knew he had to recruit him for this production. He begins with some conventional tricks such as balancing the bongo board on a soccer ball and passing hoops up and over his body. He goes on to balancing on a five level stack. The thing is, he is doing all these tricks while on, not the stage, but a swing, swaying to and fro and being lifted up and down. He finished with a trick I’ve never seen before and have been told is impossible. The seven level stack. Apparently The Seeker’s contraption works. We are in a different dimension after all, the world where anything is possible.

This is Cirque du Soliel’s 35th production since 1984. The jazz/swing score was created and composed by Raphaël Beau with Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard. Jean-François Bouchard is the creative guide and Chantal Tremblay is director of creation. It runs 2 hours, 15 minutes, with one intermission.

Photos courtesy of the author.

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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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