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Tuesday, 01 November 2011

IRIS: the Sense of Wonder of Cinema

AerialStraps 034I 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.

AerialStraps 067IRIS 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.

Contorsion 030 ImgThe 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.

Kiriki MG 1The dazzling Kiriki number featured Icarian games. The principle of Icarian games, one of the oldest circus arts disciplines, calls for a porter lying on his back spinning an acrobat with his feet. In Kiriki, eight acrobats dressed as colorful bugs spun and tossed their counterparts across the stage and piled them into rainbow towers of human insects.

With movements that literally blurred the lines between reality and the impossible, Kiriki pushed the act far beyond its traditional boundaries. The story woven throughout IRIS is that of Buster, a down and out composer searching for true love. He lays eyes on Scarlett, the naive actress and in the end she performs a number infused with romanticism as she captures the already conquered heart of Buster. Her hand balancing act required mastery and control. I was spellbound as her beautifully sculpted body and moved with fantastic artistry.

I’m not a romantic at heart; my idea of a romantic weekend with my husband would be jumping out of a plane together, trying to master an extreme sport, or haphazardly going on an unplanned vacation with only a backpack, but when Scarlett and Buster finally kissed after her performance, I took a long breath and held back tears. She had evoked an emotion in me that left me speechless. Her elegantly stretched leg stood ceremoniously and her hand rested ever so gracefully as she tilted her hand and awaited her prize. Far more beautiful and lovely than any fairy-tale was IRIS by Cirque du Soleil.

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©Lesley Carter

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