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Cirque du Soleil “Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities” Preview – The Circus is Coming August 6+!

By Amy Munice

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Imagine bicycles on a trapeze! Photo: Martin Girard


Don’t look to Cirque du Soleil to announce their new circus show with a parade of elephants through town.  Rather, this world-renowned ensemble of acrobats, gymnasts, and other circus artists showcased one of their many WOW! experts. 


James Gonzalez, the Rola Bola performer, readies to show his craft on a bench in the game room of the Chicago Athletic Association


At first you see James swinging back and forth on one cylinder


For the soon to arrive “Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities” show, an astonishing Rola Bola act was performed repeatedly in the Game Room of the Chicago Athletic Association to astound a gaggle of reporters, bloggers and TV crews for the local news stations. 


James then adds several layers, continuing to balance


Somehow-- and it is astounding to think of how many years of practice went into this, James is able to rotate a full circle while he is high up on his balanced cylinders. This act is done to music.


With superhuman seeming balance and concentration, Cirque du Soleil’s Rola Bola artist James Gonzalez stacked plexiglass boards atop perpendicular-oriented cylinders, somehow managing to not fall and also to do a 360 degree revolution as he balanced.  WOW!


In this new Cirque du Soleil show 46 artists from 14 countries combine to do WOW! feats as they create an imagined world where the secrets of electricity and other scientific phenomenon unveil the unseen.




Cirque du Soleil is THE place where the world’s top circus acts want to be.  This year 18 Cirque du Soleil shows will be performed worldwide.  “Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities” is the newest show and Chicago is one of the early stops on its world tour.


Like other Cirque du Soleil productions, the amazing set and costumes are just as much part of the WOW!


The steampunk style mechanical hand of the set design is also a platform for the gymnasts. Photo: Martin Girard



The show is described as follows by its promoters, “Written and directed by Michel Laprise, KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is a tale in which time comes to a complete stop, transporting the audience inside a fantasy world where everything is possible. In this realm set in the latter half of the nineteenth century, reality is quite relative indeed as our perception of it is utterly transformed. The name of the show refers to the humble and strange characters that inhabit the Seeker’s Cabinet of Curiosities.


“In an alternate yet familiar past, in a place where wonders abound for those who trust their imagination, a Seeker discovers that in order to glimpse the marvels that lie just below the surface, we must first learn to close our eyes. In his larger-than-life curio cabinet, the Seeker is convinced that there exists a hidden, invisible world – a place where the craziest ideas and the grandest dreams lie waiting. A collection of otherworldly characters suddenly steps into his makeshift mechanical world. When the outlandish, benevolent characters turn his world upside down with a touch of poetry and humor in an attempt to ignite the Seeker’s imagination, his curios jump to life one by one before his very eyes.”


Michel Laprise, writer and director of "Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities" says he is most inspired by the acrobats selflessness and discipline



At the Rola Bola preview, the show’s writer and director Michel Laprise was on hand to talk about “Kurios”.  Laprise shared, “…I wanted to celebrate the big top itself ….the four masts are like an antenna and the tent is like a speaker in the shadow of this big antenna, manifesting and capturing energy through the body of the performers. 


“This show had to appeal to all ages and all cultures through the years.  In ten years people may be watching this show in Japan or India—it’s not just for North American audiences.  That’s why I knew we had to do something profoundly human. I started with research on the history of electricity, this force that could move an object without a human or horse as it came to be in the second half of the 19th Century.  It was the first time music could travel with a gramophone.  Railways could connect cities…


Michel Laprise explains that this new show, like other Cirque du Soleil spectacles, will travel beyond North America over the course of the next decade


“Curiosity is one of the best virtues of human beings.  With curiosity you are open and show optimism.  Creativity becomes a way to be happier and you are exuberant when you are so excited about something you have discovered…This is the notion of the cabinet of curiosities.”


Part lamentation on how electricity changed human experience, the gramophone figures into the story line. Photo: Martin Girard


With steampunk- style sets and props--seemingly similar in part to the Cirque Mechanics show that recently performed in Chicago but with far bigger budgets to showcase the WOW! of the artistry-- the behind-the-scenes reality of this show is that today’s technology makes it all come together in new ways.  For example, Cirque du Soleil now has a body scanner that takes precise measurements of each performer such that exact-fit masks, formulated with the help of 3D printers, can be made that don’t annoy performers who need top concentration.


There are many “firsts” in this show.  For example, there are 426 props in “Kurios”, the largest number in Cirque du Soleil history.  One costume for an accordion man required that a seamstress spend an entire week inside the costume to sew it properly.   It is also the first time there will be a welcoming act on top of the big top before the show begins—weather permitting.


That noted, Laprise explains that technology isn’t really the soul of this show and that he aims to break the mold of all prior Cirque du Soleil performances.  Laprise comments, “Yes, this show has a lot of technology but it was important for me and the team that we did more than show off technology.  The sensibilities of the new generation are all about authenticity.  We don’t want to show off just the money but to put the artists in the center of the creativity.  We wanted to avoid over-choreographing and over-designing because that can lack humanity…


“My inspiration is the way the acrobats commit to what they do. ..To reach their level there has to be more than ego and one’s own self.  It’s about generosity and respect for their art…Every day they have two hours of warm up and then two and a half hours of a show.  They then have to keep warm and can’t eat until they do a second show for two and half hours.  They can’t have a full stomach when they do their training…When they do their act the Big Top goes nuts.  The artists have been sacrificing to do their acts—some since the age of five!”


Just looking at the still pictures of this show you can’t help but feel its magic.  One indicator of its success is perhaps that Cirque du Soleil has just asked Laprise to create two new shows as a sequel to the “Kurios” spectacle. 


Tickets are available on the “Kurios” web pages of the Cirque du Soleil website or by calling 1-877-9 CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783).




Photos:  Peter Kachergis, unless otherwise indicated


Published on Jul 05, 2015

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