I sat… wide-eyed, mouth dropped, as I watched them gracefully do the impossible, their bodies fitting together like puzzle pieces. They glided through the air with an elegance and movement that I’d never experienced before. The Aerial Straps Duo opened Cirque du Soleil’s IRIS at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California with an atmosphere of light and shade as they soared, suspended from a single or double strap. They took off high above the stage and landed with grace and fluidity, delivering the performance of a lifetime. The show could have ended then and there and I would have felt that the tickets were well worth their price, but three more acts took my breath away, brought tears of enjoyment to my eyes, and made IRIS the most amazing production I’ve ever witnessed.
Through visual language, acrobatics, and choreography, all interwoven with the narrative of the show, IRIS brought the splendor and sense of wonder of cinema to the stage. From illustration to animation, black and?white to color, silent films to talkies, fixed shots to swooping camera movements, we witnessed the poetic construction of this art as it transcended reality. Featuring 72 performers, 200 costumes, 8,300 square feet of floor surface, 174 loudspeakers, 603 lighting features, 20 video projectors, and 166,000 watts of sound, IRIS joins the other Cirque du Soleil productions. IRIS is not a show; it is life, ever changing, ever growing before your eyes. It is a journey through the age of cinema.
IRIS brought us into the film world before the show even began. Performers intermingled with the crowd immediately creating the atmosphere of wonder and enjoyment. Visual delights and props filled the theatre. A vintage-looking camera, for example, kept with the unique interpretation of the world of cinema while the massive clown-like heads alongside the stage added to the Cirque du Soleil feel.
The Aerial Straps Duo was set to classical music that flowed with their artistic movements. As their performance ended, we were transferred to an animalistic environment where Shadows and Contortionists played out a story on prehistoric cave walls. Four contortionists adopted striking poses and undulated like dancing flames. The flexibility of their movements was amazing as they were transformed into living sculptures. I held my breath as their bodies became water, flowing gracefully around the stage. Who knew being “spineless” was so beautiful, elegant, and mesmerizing?
Costume designer, Philippe Guillotel used his passion for movies and the results of three years of research into the history of film to create the vibrant ensembles seen in IRIS. Guillotel collaborated with director Phillippe Decoufle and the performers themselves to ensure optimal functionality. With life-threatening performances and movements, costume design wasn’t just about appearance.