The Cirque*us is in town!

Reviews · Theater

Wow, and wow again! The action-packed Cirque du Soleil production “Volta” just opened under its big top in the Dodger Stadium lot, and it’s worth a multitude of wows. There’s even an act where signs are held up, the word “Wow” on them, in case you miss your cue! 

As with all Cirque productions (I’ve seen about ten), the action traces a loose, very loose, story line. In “Volta,” with its emphasis on youth and energy, the line revolves around a young man who’s ostracized for his frosted blue hair. (This does seem anachronistic when we see kids with blue, orange, and purple hair almost every day!) Over the course of various scenes in two acts, he finds other unusual people with distinct physical talents. Highlights include gymnasts bouncing on and off two trampolines on either side of a tall structure, bungee jumpers, and synchronized strap aerialists. The latter are the very talented Pawel Walczewski from Poland and Darren Trull from the U. S., looking like twins as they fly over the circular main stage.

Toward the end of the evening, there are two acts that are superwow, the BMX cyclists and what is called “Hair Suspension.” The cyclists speed and twirl from one central platform, plus two more in the back and one in the front – don’t worry, though, there’s a board behind the front platform for the cyclists to briefly land or push against, so they don’t go flying into the audience. You may have seen cyclists at skate parks, but none with such expert and precise directional control and speed. 

More surprising is Vanessa Ferreira Calado, from Brazil, who hangs by her long hair knotted up and suspended from above. She starts in a quiet, meditation pose, legs folded, and then soon is flying about like an apsara, making big circles around the stage.  I’ve seen a performer held aloft or spinning from her hair before, but in very short spurts and not in such wide arcs or soaring height. The audience gasps when Calado is lifted high up in the rafters.

Only a few things fall short. First the costuming by Zaldy—sort of ragtag glam—has too many performers dressed so similarly that it all blends in. Second, the clown is very animated, but his skits are not terribly funny – the one with misbehaving laundry machines is at first amusing, but then goes on too long. 

All in all, kids from 8 to 80 will have a pretty wow time at this Cirque – so go ahead, treat yourself!

photo credit: matt beard

VOLTA | Big Top at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles thru Mar 8 |OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa | Mar 18- thru Apr 19

Scarlet Cheng, an LA-based arts writer, is the former managing editor of Asian Art News. She teaches art and film history at Art Center College of Design and Otis College of Art and Design.

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