There’s a certain feeling of romanticism evoked by the circus. The performing acts, the stunts, the costumes, the clowns, the incredulous set pieces, the eerie sort of enchanting music that accompanies each one are all part and parcel of the magnificent three hundred sixty-degree live experience of every circus spectator. Whether young or young at heart, audiences are moved and fundamentally captivated, all the while being kept on the edge of their seats.
Juggling. Photo by Rick Diamond. Costume by Eiko Ishioka.
Over the years, the circus has been able to entertain scores of audiences worldwide. But for one particular circus troupe, it has been able to go beyond the realms of unadulterated entertainment, making possible the impossible and informing audiences in as much as they are able to inspire and ignite their passion, sensitivities, and imagination. The group is quite possibly the foremost authority on anything ‘circus’-related as the word has grown synonymous and fantastically betrothed to the group’s existence. They are none other than Cirque du Soleil and they’re finally coming to Manila.
Flight of the Icarus. PHOTO by Benoit Camirand. Costume by Eiko Ishioka.
Cirque du Soleil literally means “Circus of the Sun.” Founded in 1984 by Canadian Guy Laliberte, the show was meant to carry out the festivities across the province of Quebec to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Canada’s discovery. Since the show had garnered considerable success during that time, it continued on, and has remained to this day, vibrant, indefatigable, and constantly in the making, performing to over hundreds of millions of spectators around the globe.
With over 5,000 employees worldwide, Cirquehas also enabled thousands of artists of various cultural diversities to showcase their unique talents whether onstage or offstage. At present, the group is performing a total of 19 different shows, including Quidam,Dralion, Corteo, Mystere and Zumanity, to name a few, all in lieu of their mission to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses, and evoke the emotions of people around the globe.
Georgian Dance. PHOTO by Rick Diamond. Costume by Eiko Ishioka.
My first Cirque-xperience happened in 1998 when I first caught O at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The show, whose name is pronounced aseau, like “water” in the French vernacular, featured a gamut of water-themed acts over a stage that rose and fell to accommodate synchronized swimming, death drops, contortionists, trapeze, and quite possibly the most stunning imagery that accompanied each one. The hydraulics of the underwater stage lift made moments where the performers seem like they were dancing on top of the water possible and quite possibly, gave me the most breathtaking, albeit expensive, cirque-xperience of my life.
Years later, I was able to catch The Beatles’ Love, a Cirque show that channeled the youthful energy of the British underground, underscored by aerial performances, extreme sports, and freestyle dance to the musical legacy of The Beatles. Of course by then, I was old enough to drink so I was able to enhance my viewing experience with a huge mug of frozen pina colada that made moments like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, incredibly trippy. It’s Vegas, baby! But watching Cirque substantiate and convey the essence of the Beatles through the conventions of the circus, I was reminded about Cirque du Soleil’s immense beauty and how a show that doesn’t necessarily follow the tell-all machinations of theater can still captivate audiences and give them the full breadth and depth of a relatable show.
The Betrothed. PHOTO by Eric Piche. Costume by Eiko Ishioka.
Varekai Comes To Manila
Alas, as many others I assume, I am quite possibly a fan boy of Cirque du Soleil. Recollections of O and The Beatles’ Love to this day can still exact goose bumps usually brought about by powerful Broadway material; such that when I was invited to attend the media launch of Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai last Thursday at the prestigious Manila Hotel, I was floored and at the same time, titillated with the idea that my Cirque-xperiences would be recreated on Philippine soil.
The word Varekai means “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies — the universal wanderers. Written and directed by Dominic Champagne, the show pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai.
Paying tribute to the ancient and rare circus traditions of Icarian games, Water Meteors, and the Georgian dance, the show promises an explosive fusion of drama and acrobatics, displaying skill and power set against innovative music and otherworldly sets, interwoven with choreography that speaks to all in the universal language of movement.
Russian Swings. PHOTO by Patrick Bernath. Costume by Eiko Ishioka.
Varekai will premiere on June 21 for a limited engagement under the blue-and-yellow Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) located at the Luneta, across Quirino Grandstand. Tickets are on sale at www.hoopla.ph or www.cirquedusoleil.com. For inquiries, call 775-0939, 881-0947, 0919-4508125 and 0917-4436463. The show is co-presented by The Mania Hotel.