Lilting lyrics and lithe limbs are the trademarks of Cirque Du Soleil and the current touring production Saltimbanco, most recently at the Nutter Center in Dayton, provides plenty of both. As is typical of all Cirque performances the evening began with casual audience interplay as chorus members and announcers from the show cavorted in the arena. Young women were flung into the air and carried backstage, children were flipped head over heals, and men were stripped while standing on chairs. While a little racy the interplay was never distasteful.
Saltimbanco is an impressionistic presentation of the urban experience. Described as “decidedly baroque in its visual vocabulary, the show’s eclectic cast of characters draws spectators into a fanciful, dreamlike world, an imaginary city where diversity is a cause for hope” Saltimbanco offers views into the lives of children, workers, street performers, and families. Jugglers who dance, dancers who sing, mimes who also do sound effects; everyone in a Cirque show is multitalented. The acrobats are possibly the most thrilling to watch. From tumbling to death-drops from poles to flying from catapults; these performers take death defying risks that are stunningly beautiful. Saltimbanco offers 9 acts split by one 20 minute intermission.
The first act, Adagio, is an acrosport presentation that “evokes birth, the family unit, and the fragility of life in today’s metropolis.” Artistic Bicycle follows with teens watching a bicycling street performer that guitars and does gymnastics all while making a bicycle truly dance. The third act of Chinese Poles brings the blood to a boil as 26 acrobats fly through the air from one pole to another. In their variegated leotards they were exotically erotic and exciting – like foreign flowers or leaves floating on the air. Juggling does not really describe the talents that are on display in the 4th act. This is a very literal interpretation of modern life and trying to keep “all your balls in the air.” The 5th act of Boledoras could be inferred as connecting the beauty, community, balance and violence of urban life. These argentine weapon-like instruments are extremely dangerous and beautiful.
After intermission the tempo increased. The 6th act of Russion Swing featured aerial jumps and human pyramids. The most sensual act is the 7th of Duo Trapeze. This stunning aerial ballet of two figures is intoxicatingly simple yet intricately difficult considering the height at which it is performed. The 8th act is a simple display of human strength called Hand to Hand. This is a performance of the raw power of the human form. The final act is an invigorating display of Bungees. Dancers on bungee cords contort their forms to an operatic theme in a gravity defying display that evokes magnificent urban birds.
Classic themes with figures like the powerless leader, death, the dreamer,
the jester, the child, and the messenger are fused into the physical play to
create a performance that is both thought provoking and amusing. The staging
was a bit awkward – but this is the first arena tour for Cirque Du Soleil.
As expected, Saltimbanco is a wonderful event that enchants people all walks
of life and ages.
Review by Linsey Griffith
Photos by David Heasley