Cirque de Soleil's "Dralion" Review-A Blending of East Meets West Circus Tradition

Cirque de Soleil’s Dralion, directed by Gilles Ste-Croix is an east-meets-west, antiquity-meets-the-present entertaining circus spectacle with music, song, clowning, dance, and acrobatics.

While Dralion, directed by Gilles Ste-Croix and appearing on tour in Chicagoland area’s Hoffman Estates Sears Center, follows no precise storyline or clear plot, nearly every act is captivating and different, employing multiple media elements to create a holistically remarkable show. While not my favorite of Circque de Soleil’s shows due to its comparatively simple, less ostentatious execution, I still enjoyed the experience and walked away astounded by the acrobatics and physical stunts. From sensual dance to pure physical strength, from moments of plain old fun to moments of passion and violence, my eyes were fastened to the stage throughout the show.

Each act effectively utilized the four elements of fire, air, earth, and water to complement the more acrobatic-driven elements, seaming together physical challenges with the themes of east meets west, avant garde meets antiquity. The African dancer ( Henriette Gbou) representing the Earth and dressed in firey red hues gave an active, vivacious vibe to the acts she participated in. One of them included the hoop diving scene, where men, dressed in animalistic brown and white striped garb resembling those of a predator, jumped through small enclosed hoops without touching each other or the rims of the hoops. Water ( Tara Catherine Pandeya) and Little Buddha ( Lia Paredes), in their beautiful green- gilded costumes, presented a more spiritual, majestic aura in their acts. Singers Agnes Sohier and Cristian Zabala were also instrumental in cementing the themes of the show. Their operatic, angelic voices provided a nice backdrop and contrast to the harsher contemporary, rock and alternative music pervading much of the show. To top that off, all of the music was live, with several highly talented musicians collaboratively creating the melodic sounds heard throughout the show.

Oceane-Water (Tara Catherine Pandeya)

My favorite act in the show was by far the trampoline set. Two trampolines were set up on the stage and multiple stage performers would fly from one to the other, often at the same time in a sort of color-coordinated red and green choreography. What was especially fascinating was the fact that after jumping on the trampoline, the performers would fly up to a ledge on the silver-steel lined wall. It was as if they were walking on walls and defying gravity! I had to turn my head away every few minutes while watching because I was so afraid the actors would either jump into each other when traversing between trampolines or not be able to fly high enough to land on a ledge on the wall. In addition to these challenging, high-stakes acrobatics, Agnes Sohier sang beautiful operatic tones to a fast-rock beat.

Another standout piece was the juggling act by Vladislav Myagkostupov. Myagkostupov was able to flip around and contort his body into various contortions  while he was juggling various balls. What I most enjoyed about this piece was the way in which his body effortlessly swayed to the music as he was juggling the balls, calling to mind a lizard or snake. While the juggling was impressive, to me he stood out due to his rhythm and natural dance style.

Azala-Air (Amanda Orozco)

One of the most sensual acts of the show was Aerial Pas de Deux, performed by Amanda Orozco and Lorant Markocsany. Hanging from deep blue cascading ribbons, the two complemented each other perfectly in this majestic dance scene. Markocsany became what I would consider a stereotypical dominant, empowering male, deeply desiring Orozco and doing what he could to capture her, while Orozco played the more passive woman capturing the heart of her lover through her beauty and sensuality. The angelic music, deep blue hues set against a gold and black backdrop, and the sensual, collaborative choreography between the two performers, made this an aesthetically beautiful act to watch.

Aerial Pas de Deux

The clowning acts were hysterical and offered a nice interlude between the more intense acrobatic acts. One of my favorite clowning scenes was in the second act with Clown Vicente’s huge ballon-like (obviously fake) stomach protruding in and out uncontrollably with the music. His stomach was so in sync with the music and it had such precise rhythmic timing that it was like watching a belly ballet. Another clown pretended to be an audience member for most of the show. When he (still pretending to be an audience member) was called on stage and repeatedly asked to take his shirt off, I was on the edge of my seat curious how he would respond. In an act of pure instinct, he grabbed the trench-coat off the other clown, Clown Giovanni ( Christopher Neiman) which, not surprisingly, led to a sea of laughs from the audience. These Cirque de Soleil clowns showed clear committed to their craft. While we as humans are bred to subdue our emotions, these clowns gave us a valid peek into how we might act if we allowed our emotions to run free.

The costumes in Dralion, intricate and bright, also played up on the themes of east meets west, with different costumes representing different cultures (African, Indian, Chinese, etc.). What I especially loved about the costumes was the way in which they were organically incorporated into the show. In Dralions at the end of the first act, the dralions (a mix between a dragon and a lion) who prodded around the stage were each made of 2-4 performers hiding within. One performer took the head and front legs, one performer took the hind legs and but, and sometimes another performer controlled the back. These dralion puppet-like figures, though much larger than life-size animals, seemed so realistic due to the natural way they moved. They shook their behinds, danced around on both two and four legs, and miraculously rolled upon big golden balls. These figurative animals seemed so animal-like and did such amazing stunts that it was hard to believe that they were being maneuvered by 2-3 performers inside them.

Skipping Ropes

Overall, I appreciated the blending of cultures, musical and dance styles, and cirque de soleil avant-garde traditions with Chinese circus traditions that Dralion captured. I was mesmerized not simply by the challenging physical stunt work, but also by the well put together thematic and cultural elements that ultimately tied the show together and gave meaning to the word Dralion.

Dralion performed in Hoffman Estates Seares Centre January 26-30th and is currently on tour across the U.S.

To learn more about Dralion, you can visit
www.cirquedusoleil.com/dralion

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