To say the latest Cirque du Soleil is unique is a given; they are all different. After 38 shows over 34 years it may be hard to come up with something new, yet the latest Cirque du Soleil iteration, “Luzia,” does just that.
“Luzia” is a Mexican fiesta; a party, which includes several dozen of your closest friends that can juggle, swing from poles, and exhibit incredible feats of strength, agility and contortionism.
Projected on the rear wall is a large disc which rotates and acts as a video screen and is incorporated into the set pieces, which, as always, are exquisite.
But, for the first time, “Luzia” includes something we have never seen before in the traveling version: a water treatment.
From the top of the circus tents comes torrential rain, light sprinkles and an amazing collage of shapes that magically appear within the water. It’s a miracle of computerized timing and possibly something in the water that helps creates unique hearts and diamonds and snowdrops, built into the canvas of water.
The water must be filtered and disinfected and kept at a constant 82 degrees Fahrenheit for the performer’s safety. It is also recycled since they use 1,585 gallons for each city.
The Cirque acts perform within the enclosed rain storm, including even the Cyr wheel encircling a young female performer rotating inside the raindrops and out. The dancers dance, the hoop divers dive, and the hanging, flowing acrobats perform within the rain as though it doesn’t exist.
On opening night a few of the props were knocked down during the performance, and a few somersaults were not fully executed the first time around, but like the consummate pros that they are, the missed feats were redone until the crowd roared with approval and appreciation of the second efforts.
Some performances were especially noteworthy.
The Adagio in Act I involves three very strong men: a Russian and two Poles, flinging an American-Asian woman around and up and every way possible, yet catching her effortlessly. Watching her twirl and rotate, yet get caught before damage or falling, was magical.
Of course, every circus has a strong man, and this one is French performer Ugo Laffolay, who balances on flexible wooden canes, first three sets, then four, then five, until two birds descend from above adding number six to the 20-foot plus tower. This was done under the watchful eyes of a faux Mexican “director” as though the entertainment was part of a movie set, with extras and set people throughout the stage.
In fact, the entire show has a Mexican feel, including lucha libre masked performers, musicians playing and street singers serenading the audience and finishing with a Mexican feast.
Stephen Brine, from the US, performs using just straps while hanging from the top of the tent. Yet he stretches the straps up and down- and into a pool of water. As he exits the water flings and cascades from his body.
Symbolism abounds in this production as it heralds the Mexican and Hispanic culture throughout several centuries. The pool represents Mayan sink holes which were believed to be gateways to the afterlife, and as Brine comes down to earth he interacts with a life size Jaguar puppet with four men inside and controlling the naturally graceful movements.
Two of the performers could have a show of their own.
Juggler Cylios Pytlak from France might seem like any juggler you have seen before, yet his masterful handling of metallic bowling pins was mesmerizing, not so much in the number of pins he used, but the speed of their rotation. Like an airplane propeller, the only thing visible was the blur.
In many decades of circuses and performances, never have I seen anyone manipulate his body like contortionist, Aleksei Goloborodko from Russia. I am convinced he removed his ribs and hips and replaced them with rubber, since he was able to place his entire torso through his legs while lying on his stomach. His performance was otherworldly!
The question of “should I go?” is a resounding yes. Read whatever information you can before you visit so you can appreciate the imagery, the symbolism and the majesty that is Luzia. You will not be disappointed.
“Luzia” runs through March 25 at the Orange County Fairgrounds. For ticket information visit cirquedusoleil.com.
Note: Photos courtesy of Cirque du Soleil