Saturday, September 06, 2003

I Join the Circus

I've mentioned the Cirque Du Soleil before in this space - its tent went up in the Boeing parking lot in Renton. For those that don't know, it is a European-style circus out of Quebec which features live acts (no animals) and clowns coupled with an allegorical storyline and sumptuous costumes. Its been shown on the BRAVO network, has a permanent gig in Vegas, and has been satirized in both the Simpsons and South Park. The current traveling show in Seattle is called Alegria. For my birthday, Kate got tickets - not just general admission tickets, but the VIP tour, which meant good seats, a separate reception area, appetizers and champagne.

When describing the show itself, words fail. Seriously. Most of what I have read on it sounds pretentious, and I will probably do little better herer. It is a crystalized fancy, a waking dream, continually in motion, continually spinning out its performances and framing them in small acts. The live acts themselves are wonderful (aerialists, trampoline artists, gymnasts, contortionists, a fire dancer, a strong man, and of course the clowns, both friendly and grostesque), and on the open stage beneath the great tent there is continual activity, continual engagement. By intermission my mouth was dry merely from my jaw being dropped open for so long.

There is a dream-like quantity to this circus, and a hazy connectedness to reality and myth. Bluejay women and acrobats from the Elven Court spin across the stage. Corsairs dance among the highwires and a genie swirls overhead. We see an alien bodytwister in a white owl cape stalked by a crippled angel, henlike clowns, a hunchbacked ringmaster, chantueses backed up by an almost-doll-like clockwork band, exotic acts arriving without fanfare or introduction and build to amazing resolutions. You're expected to keep up, or at least to accept that which unfolds before you. Forget analyzing, forget commenting. Just let it wash over you.

And then, after the intermission, I joined the circus, briefly. One of the singers, the White Faerie Queen, sang warmly in French, then descended from the stage to flirt among the front rows. She stopped before me (I had an aisle seat), and took me in both hands, singing as she led me to the stage (I stumbled on the top step, she kept me upright, still singing). We danced at center stage, only a few steps, I'm sure, but time expanded for me beneath the lights, such that it seemed much longer. Then the Strongman, who had graduated in the first act from being a caged beast to becoming the protector of the faerie women, grasped me around my waist from the back, hauled me a foot in the air, carried me to the edge of the stage, and, under the direction of the hunchbacked ringmaster, sent me back to my seat.

I don't remember how the song ended - by the time I recovered the clowns were on the stage again, trying to deliver a letter by imaginary horseback. It was magical and amazing and hillarious. Kate swears it was the funniest thing she's ever seen me do (I think I was blushing through-out, but completely confident that they would let no harm would come to me or my ego in the process). I get more than just a little stage fright, but it happened so fast, so effortlessly, so naturally, that I had no other choice but to embrace it. It was, quite simply, magical.

The Alegria show travels, to Portland at the end of September, and I don't know where from there. If you get a chance, go see it. You don't have to get the big tickets, or dance with the White Faerie Queen, but you'll find it is a fantastic, exciting, and overwhelming experience. There's a lot of talk and joking about feeding the "Inner Child", and this did exactly that. Even before I was swept onto the stage.

Go see it.

More later,