Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler discovers the mystical world of Amaluna.
By now, most of us are familiar with the Cirque du Soleil brand, one which combines circus acts with death-defying feats of acrobatics, aerial maneuvers, contortion and just about anything else you can dress up with body paint, sequins and feathers. Amaluna, the company’s latest concept to hit the road, incorporates the added value of Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus (Pippin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess). This Cirque is one that celebrates a decidedly feminine energy and is centered on a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of their moon.
According to program notes, their queen, Prospera, directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honors femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance, which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next.
In the wake of a storm caused by Prospera, a group of young men lands on the island, triggering an epic, emotional story of love between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor. But theirs is a love that will be put to the test. The couple must face numerous demanding trials and overcome daunting setbacks before they can achieve mutual trust, faith and harmony.
At the end of the journey, I can’t say that I absorbed much of that, save the “numerous demanding trials” that take the form acts including uneven bars, teeter boards, aerial straps and more. But worth the ticket price alone is an act that transcends Cirque’s flashy costumes and palpitating maneuvers. Executed by Lili Chao, it is simply called “Balance Goddess” and had the audience enraptured in its rhythmic beauty.
As the lights come up, Chao is centered in the middle of what appears to be a life-size game of pick-up sticks, except that the pieces slightly resemble a whale skeleton. One at a time, she slowly stacks the sticks crosswise upon each other, balancing the growing structure as she methodically rotates 360 degrees. Chao, outfitted with a body mic, deeply breathes throughout the ritual, adding dimension and strength. By the end of the piece, she is miraculously balancing an entire skeletal structure, and in one swift movement, its entirety gently cascades upon itself into a heap.
What comes before and after is Cirque-licious, packed with an international cast of gorgeous bodies, equally as mystical costumes, and an all-female band that echoes Heart, Pat Benatar and smidge of Celtic Woman. For those who have ventured to Las Vegas to see Cirque’s resident shows that take advantage of hydraulic lifts, aquatic stages and other 21st century gadgetry, consider returning to the Big Top, where Amaluna will carry you away to parts unknown.
Through May 18
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