Cry of youth-CIRQUE DU SOLEIL’S ALEGRIA   Leave a comment

Cirque du Soleil, Alegria, at Royal Albert Hal...

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Alegria” brings the theme of hope and change in a visual, musical and artistic spectacular

Cirque Du Soleil, whose “Saltimbanco” thrilled audiences in its first foray to Hawaii in 2008, wings its way back to the islands tonight with “Alegria,” one of its most popular touring productions.

Audiences can expect more than just spectacular acrobatic stunts, elaborate costumes and sets, and heart-stirring music. “Alegria,” according to senior artistic director Michael Smith, is “a universe and a world that we can get people to become involved in.”

“The universal theme of ‘Alegria’ is the cry of youth,” he said. “Every younger generation thinks it can change the world. … It’s about hope.”

“Alegria,” which means “jubilation” in Spanish, portrays a pitched confrontation between the older, entrenched Establishment and a naive but fearless younger generation. Although there are conflicts between and within the two groups, there is not a clear plot line, Smith said, letting audience members develop their own interpretation of the show.

“There’s a very big difference between us and, say, ‘Phantom of the Opera,’” he said. “It’s not a story line as such that people follow. … People will grasp onto certain things and not grasp onto other things.”

The TGIF cover of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for Friday, October 15, 2010.

The show was created in 1994, an era that is not generally seen as one of great generational conflict. But Cirque creators saw the development of the Internet as potentially widening the generation gap, and so they felt the theme was appropriate.

Creators had “the belief that this amazing thing back in 1994 was going to impact the world in such a way that it was going to exaggerate the differences of the generations, and it’s proved to be,” Smith said.

This connection to the computer age notwithstanding, viewers shouldn’t expect “Alegria” to be a technological spectacular so much as it will be a visual, musical and artistic one, with Cirque’s penchant for innovation on full display.

Contortionists, featured performers in many Cirque Du Soleil shows, are also part of the touring production “Alegria.” —Courtesy Photo

ONE OF “Alegria’s” featured acrobatic acts, the Power Track, is essentially a huge trampoline act. Cirque creators took it a step further, developing their own material that allows many performers to jump on it at the same time.

An De Win, one of 14 people who perform on the Power Track, came to Cirque after competing as a tumbler in international competition, a background shared by many Cirque performers.

“We jump over each other, under each other, we do synchronized jumping,” said De Win, a native of Belgium. “It’s a combination of, like, choreography and flips.”

De Win’s background as a competitive athlete — she even competed in Hawaii as a teenager — helps her with the exacting physical demands of the job, but De Win said she also had to learn how to play to a crowd.

“You cannot be a gymnast on stage; it doesn’t work,” she said. “As a gymnast, you focus on your routine, what you have to do, and you have no interaction with the public. And when you come on stage, it’s all about giving yourself to your audience. … Catching someone’s eyes after a routine, that gives you a lot of energy.”

She said she much prefers performing. “If you make a mistake in competition, you get punished for it,” she said. “Here, if you make a mistake and nobody gets injured, everyone’s laughing so hard.”

One of the highlights of “Alegria” is the acrobatic act known as the Power Track, in which performers jump on a huge trampoline. —Courtesy Photo

Another featured act in “Alegria,” the Russian bars, is an example of how Cirque will take a traditional circus act and transform it, Smith said.

“It used to be a piece of metal, pliable metal, that a guy jumped on and two guys threw him up in the air and he had to do incredible things and landed on it,” Smith said.

Back in the 1970s, a performer, Sasha Moiseev, came up with the idea of strapping together pole vaulting poles for the bar, giving it much more flexibility and allowing the gymnast to jump much higher and do more stunts, Smith said. Multiple bars were added, with the acrobats leaping from one to the other.

Moiseev now serves as a coach for Cirque Du Soleil, with “world-class trampolinists” performing choreographed jumps, Smith said.

“We recruit elite athletes,” he said. “The line that an Olympic athlete has is much different than what a traditional circus performer has — the line in the air with arms and legs, the sophistication with pointed hands, arms. The aesthetic becomes so beautiful.”

ALEGRIA” also features exciting individual acts, among them Samoan fire-dancer Micah Naruo, a Honolulu native who performed at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The 55-member traveling company, which includes not only performers but trainers and a cook, represents 17 countries.

Samoan fire-dancer Micah Naruo, a Honolulu native, performs in “Alegria.” —Courtesy Photo

Spectacular acts aside, Cirque takes other measures to stamp its unique brand on its shows, with impressive results. The music for all shows is created by its own composers, with “Alegria’s” soundtrack — a new-age fusion of French, Spanish, African and Mediterranean music — spending several weeks atop the Billboard world music chart in 1995.

The Montreal-based company runs its own factory, which is responsible not only for creating and training the performers but making the complicated props and distinctive costumes that Cirque is known for. The company even dyes its own silk and paints performers’ shoes.

“It’s a very baroque kind of world we create,” Smith said. “It’s not circus, it’s not performance, it’s not theater. It’s all of them put together.”

—Steven Mark /


Posted October 17, 2010 by dmacc502 in global, music, travel

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