Cirque du Soleil has become an iconic Canadian show known and beloved the world over. These performances never fail to thrill, amuse, and entrance. Created in 1984 by Québec native Guy Laliberté and based out of Montreal, Cirque du Soleil is famous for bringing together international cultures, artistic forms, and acrobatic techniques to create a visual and auditory spectacle that truly elevates the art of the circus.
The Cirque du Soleil show that I had the pleasure of attending in Ottawa was TOTEM, an exhibition that seeks to relay the entire story of mankind, from our humble beginnings to our greatest achievements. The senses of wonder and grandeur emanating from the show are appropriate for such an all-encompassing tale, and the tones of enchantment and magic highlight its focus on founding mythology. Featuring a wide array of hoop dancers, aerial, ring, and bar artists, unicyclists, roller skaters, and manipulation and balancing acts, each performance contains an element of fun and whimsy, and none fail to impress.
The show is set in a traditional “big top” circus tent, and part of the magic of the performance is derived from this intimate setting that allows every movement to be seen in detail. This up-close-and-personal atmosphere creates thrills by placing the audience right inside the action, so that they become a part the show. Although I have watched Cirque du Soleil from the nosebleeds of a large hockey arena, I now realize that these shows are meant to be experienced within this kind of setting. The tent also serves as a reminder that this truly is a circus at heart that has simply been elevated to the next level, and balance beam and unicycle acts pay homage to the show’s circus origins. Although acts may start simply, however, they always gradually increase in complexity as more elements are added, pushing the boundaries of what should be humanly possible.
An ever-evolving set and entrancing, colourful costumes add to the spectacle. Live music matches the tones of the various acts, alternating between light and humorous, soft and mystical, and intense tribal/rock fusion. TOTEM is less focused on plot than some Cirque du Soleil shows, concentrating instead on creating an overall atmosphere and relaying its themes. Even the humorous interludes meld into acts of wonder, and there truly is never a dull moment in this show.
When placed this close to the undeniably talented performers who comprise the cast of TOTEM, it is impossible not to become caught up in their infectious enthusiasm and excitement. The audience at the performance I was fortunate enough to attend reacted uproariously to every act and delivered a unanimous standing ovation at its conclusion. The wonder within this show comes from the capabilities of the human body; it is a celebration of where we came from, where we’ve been, and all that we are now capable of. Cirque du Soleil is a real treat, and this masterful show fusing cultures, styles, and art forms and bringing all humans together is not to be missed.
Show Dates: July 11 – August 04 2013
Location: Big Top, next to the Canadian Tire Centre – 1000 Palladium Drive, Ottawa, ON K2V 1A5