Saturday, December 8, 2007

How Can Something Involving Both Clowns and the French Still Be Awesome?

Last Thursday, I went to probably one of the coolest shows I have ever seen. True, I haven't seen that many shows, but still, I'm sure it will be hard to top the experience.

Maybe you've heard of it. It's called Cirque du Soleil.

For both of you who've never heard of it, Cirque du Soleil is a circus founded in Quebec in 1984 in order to create the "modern circus", one which didn't rely on the use of animals for amusement, but rather on the triumph of the spirit human body. Basically, the world's best acrobats/death-defiers/performers in general of the world are employed by this organization, which has both touring shows around the United States, as well as a few stationary shows in Las Vegas and, I think, Orlando.

So, that's all fine and good, but how did I get to see one? Well, that's one of the niceties about being an RA. You're in the know about things, and there are always RAs putting on cool events. Well, one of the RAs in Unit 2 decided to have an outing to see the show KOOZÅ, which is playing in San Francisco until January. When I saw a poster for the program, I knew that I had to go.

Now, I really enjoy the Cirque. I had never actually been to a show prior to this, but there is more than one way to enjoy something. I, for example, had the soundtracks to quite a few Cirque shows. In fact, I wrote an entire post about it waaay back in February. And I still enjoy them. The chance to see a new show, and experience a new soundtrack, well, it was too exciting to pass up.

And the best part? Normally, tickets to the show cost $80. However, because it was a Res Hall-sponsored event, we were able to get it subsidized, so the tickets now only cost $25. And, in the immortal words of some guy, "you'd be a sucker to pass that up!"

So, I was able to talk to the other RA, and I was able to reserve a ticket for myself. Which was good, because if you weren't an RA (who reserved their ticket on time), you had to stand in line to buy them. A line at least 50 people long. For 25 tickets. Heh heh.

So in the days leading up to the event, I told several friends and acquaintances about it. Surprisingly, I heard the same exact thing from many of them: "Oh, yeah, I saw a Cirque du Soleil show once." When I'd ask them how they liked it, they all said that they had seen the show when they were little kids. Uncanny, really. Still, it seemed as though I was the only one who was going to see it at an age where I really could appreciate it.

So, the night of the program comes, I eat an early dinner, put on my Night-at-the-Theatre/New-Age-Millionaire outfit (a white t-shirt and jeans with my old black sportcoat). Got my ticket, and was on my way. Here's the ticket, for those interested.

It was a very cold night, and it was slightly raining. Most people were bundled up like Eskimos Inuit. Thank goodness my Northern-European genes kept me warm. All the residents signed waivers (my absolute favorite things ever), and we were on my way.

I brought my camera along with me, because I've always been meaning to take pictures of programs and events for posterity, like a lot of people do. Then I remembered that my camera is bulky for my pocket, and it's really uncomfortable to just pull out a camera and say, "Hey guys, let's take a picture, hyuk hyuk." So, in the end, I ended up only taking two pictures, both of which were on the bus on the way to the BART station on the way to the MUNI station on the way to the baseball park. So...yeah.

Anyhoo, it was a dark night (thank you very much, winter), but we were all make it to the big top. And even though it was cold and wet on the outside, it was warm and toasty on the inside. It was also buzzing on the inside, like some sort of crazy beehive. People going every which way, some selling, most buying.

Prices weren't low inside the tent, but then, that was to be expected. Two hot dogs cost $20, and some sort of combo deal with popcorn, a drink, and something else cost $35.

Of course, I had eaten earlier (for that very reason), and I figured, "if I'm going to spend money, I might as well spend it on something that will last." And believe me, I was ready to spend money. This was my first Cirque show, and I was willing to act like the silly American tourist and empty my pocketbooks on stuff. I'll get to that in a bit.

So, eventually the show started. And...well, how do I begin? Well, why don't you start by watching the trailer:

So there you go. Now, every Cirque show has it's own theme/style, and according to the official literature:
KOOZÅ is a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil: It combines two circus traditions – acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The show highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful mélange that emphasizes bold slapstick humor.
So there you go. The show's very basic plot follows this character called "The Innocent," who is either a small man with a childlike mind or a child with severe balding. He's taken into a mystical circus world by this guy called "The Trickster." While flamboyantly dressed, this guy exudes awesomeness. This starts at his very entrance, when he jumps literally 10 feet into the air from a jack-in-the-box. He then seems to be the ringleader for the rest of the show, and does so quite well. I bet he gets all the circus ladies. (or rather, the Cirque ladies, which do look a lot nicer than your run-of-the-mill carnies).

So, let me go through what I thought were the most impressive parts.

The contortionist trio. Good. Gravy. These three ladies...well, you know what contortionists do. But they're strong, too. One of them was standing (on one hand) on what I think was the sternum of another, which was bent backwards so much that her head was touching her butt. And the third balanced on top of her. But what I think was the craziest part was when one girl had her chest on the ground, her legs slung over like a scorpion tail. But then she spun her legs around her body. Like, her legs we walking/hopping, but her torso was stationary. I don't know how else to describe it. It was...indescribable.

The tight rope. There was a near-accident on this one, as one of the guys nearly fell off as he was trying to jump over another one. He made an amazing recover, but lost his hat. In my opinion, though, that was a good thing, because his bare head made him easy to identify, and he was doing all the most intense tricks. My favorite part of talking to people about the show is describing the climax of this act: "There's a guy standing and balancing on a chair which is balancing on a bar which is balancing on two guys which are balancing on bicycles which are balancing on a tight rope...25 feet above the ground."

The juggler. Well, there was nothing particularly different about him, but he was a really good juggler. Barring a couple mistakes, he was nearly flawless (or just played it off all the time). One example of his craziness: at one point, he's balancing a 6-foot pole on his head that has a small little branch and a cup on the top. And he's balancing this on his head while juggling a bunch of hoops and a ball. At one point, he begins throwing the hoops onto the branch. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Then he throws the ball into the little cup balancing six feet above his head, and throws the last hoop so that it lands on the ball like a halo.

The Wheel of Death. This is apparently a Cirque staple, in a few of their shows. It' know, I'm just going to show this clip. It's from a different show, and there are a few differences (ours was suspended from the air, there wasn't a second wheel behind it, and our guys were dressed like demons), but you get the gist of it.

According to the program (and the trailer), there was also a chair balancing act, which looked cool, but never showed up. :( Oh, well. But all the rest was there. And in the interim periods, while things were getting set up, there were little clown acts, which weren't bad, mainly because they played out less like Bozo and Chuckles and more like Larry, Curly, and Moe (with a little Shemp here and there).

In the end, the Innocent becomes, I dunno, king of the circus, but all he does is fly a kite and laugh....*cough* But Cirque du Soleil isn't really about the plot, it's about showmanship, which there was bundles of.

At the end of the show, I said "That's the best $25 I ever spent." And I really think it was. I'd gladly pay more, so it was a lot of consumer surplus. But, truth be told, I spent more than just $25. As I said, there was lots to buy, and I wanted to make my first show, mmm, special.

One of the things I really wanted was the soundtrack CD, but it won't be released until January. :( However, I did buy a program, and I also decided to buy a different CD, one with the "Best of Cirque" songs. Unfortunately, that was somewhat of an Epimethian move on my part. Remember how I said that I had a bunch of soundtracks already. Unfortunately, I had all the soundtracks that the songs came from. Oh, well. Perfect Christmas gift. Anyone interested.

I also wanted to buy something a bit more substantial. Namely, a shirt. Now, they weren't cheap, hovering around the $50 level. But considering the food cost half that much, I considered it quite a good deal. I was intent, though, on not just buying another shirt. If I was going to be paying good money, I wanted it to be creative, to be unique, to be...Cirque-y. And I eventually found one that fit the bill quite nicely. Plus, it works well with my goggle-glasses!

(Note: I am NOT drunk in the first picture.)
Interesting note: while unintended, the arms in that last shot actually looks quite similar to a certain Mr. Cool Someone.

So yeah, there you go, my first Cirque du Soleil show, and it was a blast. Like I said the show will be in San Francisco until January 20, and then in San Jose until March. If you're in the area, definitely see it. Or, if you're ever in any vicinity where any Cirque show is, make an effort to see it. You will not regret it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


this is totally random and weird of me, but I stumbled across your blog by doing a Google image search of Kooza. You were one of the first results, and coincidentally enough, also had the best picture of The Trickster (of whom I have some sort of deranged circus-crush on). Lo and behold, you talk about him and repeated a line that I had recently said to a friend of mine. Paraphrasing- he dresses pretty queer-eye, but he touts around on stage like he gets all the ladies :p. Anyway, I somehow got sucked into your blog and you seem like a cool, coherent person. For some reason I don't come across those two qualities very often. And hey- you live like an hour away.
So, my point of this comment, if nothing else, is to drop you a compliment and say hello. Despite my mostly swearing off fanfiction (if that's even what it's classified as) your Star Wars story was actually not half bad. ;) Thanks for the lovely Trickster pic. I have no idea how to use Blogger, so I have no idea if you'll ever see this comment or how I'm supposed to know if you responded to it, so... here is my myspace: I don't know how into the whole "internet friends" thing you are, but you should say hi. And since I spied on your blog, there's a link to mine if you click my name (warning: my blog = not as eloquent or thought out as yours, unfortunately).
Alright, I think if I write anymore I will officially sound creepy. Thx for the pic. Keep writin!