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"Luzia" Review- Cirque du Soleil's new show is "A Waking Dream of Mexico"

By Debra Davy

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Cirque Du Soleil opened “Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico” under a gold and white “Big Top” at The United Center (Parking Lot “K”) in Chicago on July 21st for a limited run through September 3rd, 2017.

A surrealistic vision of the wonders of Mexico integrating music, dance, acrobatics, clown/mime, juggling, aerialists, and other feats of athletic/artistic prowess amid a revolving set of fantastic costumes, mesmerizing masks, robots and puppet-animals, this is a thrilling and intriguing 20-act show.


Running Woman

The title, “Luzia”, is an amalgam for the Spanish words “light” (luz) and “rain” (iluvia); both elements are integral to the show’s concept. At all times during the production, a huge reflective disk- representing the sun (“soleil is French for sun)- shines over the action at audience right; the sun, after all, being our primary source of light. In the middle of the stage, a cascading curtain of rain appears, sometimes culminating in a dipping pool; it is central to the performance. A water basin under the stage floor permits the acrobats to work with this refreshing and wildly innovative integrated natural element.


Rather than telling a linear story, the show transports the observer on a journey of visionary wonders. Co-writer/Director Daniele Finzi Pasca began his career as a gymnast and became a circus artist before “delving” into theater, and elements of all 3 artistic disciplines are interwoven throughout “Luzia”.


The Cyr Wheel

The extraordinary acts include:

-The “Prologue: A parachuting clown, who becomes our emcee, “The Traveler”, Eric Fool Koller of the Netherlands, free-falls into a flower-filled field with a huge brass key, which he turns, releasing the dreamscape. Koller appears throughout the show, having main roles in “Beach Clown”, in which he plays ball with the audience, in “Clown Rain”, in which images created from water droplets fall from the sky, seguing into a transitional “Percussions Parade”, of percussionists and singers harking back to Day of the Dead revels, and as a diver in “Scuba Diving”, (with Diana Ham and Gerardo Ballester Franzoni of Mexico, Laura Biondo of Italy/Venezuela and Emmanuel Cyr of Canada) in which he immerses himself in the pool and cacti come to life with scary results. Indeed, living and walking flora and fauna are interspersed throughout the show, as are strange animals and animal/human amalgams, such as large backward-facing crocodile headgear. Mention should be made of the luxurious and charming “Oasis” transition, as well.


Franzoni, Biondo and Cyr also appear with Singer Majo Cornejo of Mexico in the “Singer and Jaguar” transition, with a very special huge pacing puppet. Biondo again appears in the lovely “Football Dance” with Abou Traoré of Guinea, cleverly manipulating the ball with their knees, heads and necks amid the rain.


-“Running Woman”: Shelli Epstein of the UK awakens the imaginary land of Mexico with a wondrous metallic horse before taking off on butterfly wings; like the rest of the cast, as in nighttime visions, Epstein appears again, sometimes revolving on the sidelines in iconic poses.


Aerial Straps

-“Hoop Diving on Treadmills”:  This act features Michael Hottier of France and Ian Vasquez of Spain along with Stéphanie Beauregard of Canada; Dominic Cruz, Devin Henderson, Marta Henderson and Maya Kesselman of the US, who later appear with Kelly McDonald of the US in “Masts and Poles”.  In “Hoop Diving” the acrobats, dressed as flamboyant hummingbirds, leap backwards, forwards, bent in half and over each other from treadmills through small-diameter hoops. In “Masts and Poles”, the acrobats criss-cross in midair jumping between poles they’ve climbed. Kelly McDonald also appears in “Adagio”, with Naomi Zimmerman of Canada, Anton Glaskov of Russia and Krzystov Holowenko and Gregory Piotr Ros of Poland in a hand-to-hand dance-hall act; they fling her about over their heads and even turn her into a human jump rope. Holowenko also stars in “Swing 360”, wearing a “luchador” wrestling mask, turning high enough on a towering swing to make it rotate in full-circle turns.


-“Cyr Wheel and Trapeze” starred Angelica Bongiovanni of the US in a stunning performance on the wheel, specially grounded to “grab” the stage in the rain and Enya White of Canada doing amazing original figures on the trapeze, sometimes hanging by a single heel.


-“Swing to Swing” features Alexander Mischenko of Russia, Oksana Klymenko and Serhil Lytvyshchenko of Ukraine and Artisiom Bykau, Maksim Kazlou, Uladzimir Maliutsin, Uladzimir Rabinka, Alina Sotnikava, Yuriy Tsvirko and Dzmity Zhukau of Belarus, in a Cirque du Soleil premiere in which 2 swings are mounted on a turntable. All of the audience can thus enjoy the spectacle of the swingers being flung up to 33 feet in the air.


 Single acts of impressive skill included “Canes”, in which Ugo Laffalay of France does a hand-balancing act on canes that reach almost 20 feet high; “Aerial Straps”, starring Benjamin Courtenay of France as a demigod of rain emerging and returning to the pool, interacting with the jaguar, rotating majestically on the straps; “Juggling”, starring Rudolph Janacek of the Czech Republic, whirling 7 pins at propeller-thrust speed while in dialogue with the marimba; and “Contortion”, a jaw-dropping presentation by Aleksei Goloborodko of Russia  who seems boneless in his body-knots amid the glow of candles.


Finally, the “Fiesta Finale” has all the characters celebrating around a huge table, each wearing wondrous national costumes. "Luzia" is a feast for the eyes, the ears, and especially the imagination!


Masts and Poles

A special thanks to multi-instumentalist Musicians Sébastien Laurendeau of Canada, bandleader, bass, and percussion; Felipe Saray of Columbia, keyboard, accordion, and guitar; Yilmer Vivas of Venezuela on drums, percussion, and cuatro; Joenuel Lebron-Millan of Puerto Rico on trumpet and flugel horn; Juan David Pavas Pavas of Columbia on tuba and euphonium; and Rodrigo de la Mora of Mexico on guitars and charango.


Kudos to: The Creative Team of Guy Laliberté, Guide; Jean-François Bouchard, Creative Guide; Co-writers Julie Hamelin Finzi and Daniele Finzi Pasca, Director; Brigitte Poupart, Associate Director; and Patricia Ruel, Director of Creation; Costume Designer Giovanna Buzzi; Set and Props Designer Eugenio Caballero; Puppet Designer Max Humphries; Acrobatic Choreographers and Performance Designers Edesia Moreno Barata, Debra Brown, Sylvia Gertrudix Gonzalez and Philippe Aubertin; Lighting Designer Martin Labrecque; Projection designer Johnny Ranger; Sound Designer Jacques Boucher; Composer and Musical Director Simon Carpentier; Acrobatic and Rigging Designer Danny Zen; and  Makeup Designer Mary Gosselin.


Hand Balancing


All photos by Laurence Labat with costumes by Giovanna Buzzi

For information and tickets, go to the cirquedusoleil website







Published on Jul 24, 2017

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