Oh. More words to describe Cirque du Soleil: I’ll never get used to seeing acrobats being that acrobatic. This was the second Cirque show I’ve seen (the first was in Seattle in ’02, I think Saltimbanco) and both shows were overwhelming: look here, look there, at and on and around and even in that relatively small circular stage (here motorized and with a labyrinth painted on it) but with action happening on several levels and going in different directions, with dream-logic and that wash of music tying it all together…
My parents, my Uncle Greg and Aunt Peg, and I all went to Corteo this afternoon. It was a full house under the Grand Chapiteau. Several nuns were one row ahead of us. One of them showed up late with a Cirque du Soliel assistant, who saw several identically-clad older women together and told her, “I think this is your group.” It was very warm in the tent; I mean toasty; A.C. didn’t kick in until a ways into the show. Yes, the show uses dream-logic, but actually dreaming during a Cirque show doesn’t deliver the desired effect, so I made sure not to drift off.
Corteo is about an old clown imagining what his funeral will be like, with him reminiscing about his life in the process. So an early act includes trampolines done up like beds, with dancers made to look like children bouncing on them and from bed to bed. It’s a little more linear than the other Cirque shows, but there’s still a “we can do this ’cause this is coooooooool” vibe. How cool? One man walks a tightrope upside down. With rigging connecting him to the ceiling, of course – gravity must be grudgingly obeyed, this isn’t The Matrix – oh my God, imagine Cirque du Soleil in zero-G. It might happen, once we have thousands of people living in orbit instead of less than 10…
It’s hard to separate the show out into highlights. Moments stick with me – a woman with so many shiny hula hoops in motion around her, she starts to look like a human Slinky; a Scottish golfer finding a woman’s head at the tee, with her ducking or feigning fainting to prevent getting hit with the golf club; a little person harnessed to several balloons, floating above the audience and getting people to push her back up; lots and lots and lots of angels suspended from the darkened ceiling, surrounding the clown in his bed as he asks to be lowered, please, thank you very much – but I kept getting overwhelmed. Afterwards my group couldn’t stop talking about a man who balanced on a freestanding ladder just a little shorter than him, then balanced on another freestanding ladder about 15 to 18 feet tall; he climbed it and rocked it slightly from one support to another, finally balancing on the very top. Understand, no one is holding the ladder; he just knows how to keep it upright and supporting his weight. At the end of that act, an angel floats down and gives him a line, and he grabs it and is lifted up, leaving the ladder to clunk on the stage.
And there were women hanging from chandeliers, and then there were women hanging from women hanging from chandeliers – some with no harnesses or lines, just using their limb strength and timing and their deep trust of their partners. It boggles me, how each act must be rehearsed to within an inch of its life, so that it can be done without being dangerous. It made me think of how I heard Penn Jillette once speak of Penn and Teller’s “Casey at the Bat” stage act. They rehearsed it in safe conditions, Jillette said, until it could be done safely on stage and only look dangerous; the show cannot be inherently dangerous, he said, because if it is, “watching it becomes an immoral act.” Cirque du Soleil has the same ethic. Plus I find the Cirque dancers and acrobats far more attractive than Penn and Teller, so there’s that bonus.
After the lovely finale – where the old clown rides a bike above the audience – we left, stunned and smiling. Greg and Peg treated us to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory a few blocks away; we were amused that the nuns went there as well. “I should ask them if they’re stalking us,” Mom said.