Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cirque du Soleil - Quidam in Brooklyn

Do you suppose the performers in the Cirque du Soleil are actually human? For much of Quidam, I was convinced that they are stunning aliens visiting us from some magical realm where gravity can be bent, strength is magnified, life happens at double-speed or in slow motion, and the air is made of oxygen and grace.

Yves Décoste, Valentyna Sidenko
Of course, they probably are actually human, and yet they turn the Barclays Center into a place where, yes, gravity can be bent, strength is magnified, life happens at double-speed or in slow motion, and the air is made of oxygen and grace.

Consider Cory Sylvester on the German Wheel, which is a sort of free-moving hamster wheel. Sometimes he's stretched inside with his torso as the axle and his limbs as the spokes. Other times he's curled up along the edge, or even standing inside, hands free, as the wheel spins round and round. He controls the wheel's every move, and it must require perfectly coordinated, often subtle use of every single muscle he has. Yet he does it with ease, seemingly, and it's exhilarating fun to watch.

Or consider "Skipping Ropes." Skipping rope, right? We've all skipped rope. But not like that. Whether it's individuals skipping at the speed of light or dozens of people weaving in and out in the most amazing square dance you could(n't) imagine, the act is a complete delight.

Some of the acts are more on the thrillingly scary side, such as "Aerial Contortion in Silk"--which could be more accurately named, "Impossible Aerial Contortion in Silk by a Beautiful Androgynous Woman about Thirty Feet Above the Stage." Or "Banquine," which features acrobatics and human pyramids, with genuinely death-defying routines.

And don't forget "Diabolo," "Aerial Hoops," "Spanish Webs," and "Hand Balancing," each wondrous in its own way.

In an evening of energy and noise and thrills, the pièce de résistance, "Statue," is quiet and slow and features just two people: Yves Décoste and Valentyna Sidenko. Together, they evolve from one impossible position to the next. I'm not even going to try to describe what they do, other than to say that only miraculous humans beings (or aliens!) could pull it off, and you really should make sure to go see them. (See astounding picture above.)

The evening has its faults. The Clown Cinema involves grabbing people out of the audience and putting them through a "silent movie." It's supposed to be funny, but it's painfully tedious, just as virtually the same act was painfully tedious when David Shiner did it in the otherwise wonderful Old Hats with him and Bill Irwin.

And the music is LOUD. As in bring-earplugs loud. But at least with earplugs, you don't have to listen to people around you who seem to think that they can--and should--talk nonstop.

But, oh, what they miss with their talking. The way to see Quidam is quietly, attentively, openly, letting the magic wash over you, being entertained, being thrilled, being awestruck.

(row 12, to the side, second section back; press tix)

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