There are no elephants or bears on tricycles at this circus, but after almost 30 years, Cirque du Soleil is pretty sure they don’t need them.
‘Cirque du Soleil is definitely not an ordinary circus,’ says performer Adriana Pegueroles. ‘The artists are working together for a common goal: the show as a whole to be a success. All the efforts Cirque has put into staging, creating, pushing the limits further and further, have made it what it is known for today,’ she says. Launching in Dubai on Wednesday February 6 and running for 11 days, the Dralion show fuses ancient Chinese circus tradition with Cirque du Soleil’s modern approach.
‘Dralion is one of Cirque du Soleil’s biggest productions,’ saysTina Geru, the media drector for Dubai organiser Alchemy. ‘It reunites eastern and western culture, breaking it down into four life elements and bringing nature and humans together.’ The show’s popularity speaks for itself. ‘The demand for tickets in Dubai gave us no choice but to extend the number of shows by half,’ says Gu.
Started in the ’80s in Quebec, Canada, Cirque wanted to do something different, to redefine what was meant by ‘circus’, bringing together traditional acrobatic performances with busking and audience participation. They set out to bring together circus arts and street performances from around the world on one stage. Today, Cirque has 19 shows that have performed on every continent except Antarctica, including a permanent venue in Las Vegas.
‘Cirque du Soleil is the ultimate artistic expression through acrobatics, singing and dancing. I came from Argentina to be part of a show where I could express my unique talent performing a traditional Argentinean dance,’ says Pegueroles, who performs in the Saltimbanco show. ‘Cirque is the ideal place to express yourself artistically, a place where talents shine and where you can express yourself as an artist.’
Their shows tend to be complex, multi-character extravaganzas, creating vivid – if occasionally esoteric – worlds for the audience to leap into. With artists allowed free range of expression, it’s pure art, and sometimes gets a little weird.
‘You shouldn’t come to the show trying to understand a story. You should let yourself absorbed by what you will see onstage.’ That’s where a Cirque show differs from other productions, be they dance, acrobatics, or music.
The story does exist, but it’s really not the whole point.
‘A conventional Cirque audience reacts with laughs, tears, wonder and awe. No audience member leaves untouched or unmoved,’ says one of Cirque du Soleil’s current artistic directors Neelanthi Vadivel.
‘It is amazing to realise what the human body can do,’ says Pegueroles.
While watching Cirque performers contort themselves into impossible movements and poses, we’ve always wondered how they first realised they were destined for the circus. ‘I’d imagine it is the first day you scratch your ear with your toe!’ says Vadivel. ‘I was a professional contemporary dancer, who ran away with the circus and never looked back!’ she says.
So did Pegueroles.‘We are not all contortionists; I’m a dancer and percussionist sharing Argentinian traditional dance with the rest of the world. I’m privileged to be able to do that,’ she says. ‘All my life I waited for this perfect place where I could dance and share my talent with others. I love touching people by expressing emotions on the stage.’
But a tremendous amount of hard work goes into it. ‘There is a careful balancing act involved in managing 50 artists through the challenges of touring life, while instilling in them the pride and inspiration inherent in a world-renowned brand and an emblematic 20-year-old show,’ says Vadivel. ‘Training is a serious business that entails many safety measures and efficient preparations. But fun is an important part of it all, and we would not be here if we didn’t love what we do. Of course, the more salacious stories will have to remain confidential!’
Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion show runs February 6-17 at Dubai World Trade Centre, 6pm-8.30pm and 10pm-12.30am. Dhs295 silver, Dhs495 gold, Dhs1,295 platinum, Dhs2,295 royal. www.cirquedusoleil.com.