The story appears on

Page B1

September 20, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Circus about the city

CIRQUE du Soleil stages a fanciful show about big city life in which very different people from very different places interact and enrich the whole. It was chosen especially for Shanghai, reports Zhang Qian.

Cirque du Soleil that wowed Shanghai with its spectacular show at the 2010 World Expo will return to Shanghai from tomorrow to October 1 with a spectacle about people in a big city.

It faces a special challenge in adapting the performance "Saltimbanco" ("Street Performer") to the huge Mercedes-Benz Arena, which seats as many as 18,000 people. Around two-thirds of the seats have been removed to provide the best spectacle and viewing experience.

The famous Canadian entertainment company, which originated in acts by two former street performers in 1984, now describes its performances as a "dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment." Each performance has a theme.

The show "Saltimbanco" has been performed around the world since 1992. It's one of its only two shows designed for indoor performance because of its high technical demands. Like other shows, it's eccentric, fun and fanciful.

Rather than simply awing the audience with death-defying feats, "Saltimbanco" presents a picture of people in big cities coexisting with each other in harmony, and tries to create a colorful, acrobatic picture of different people.

"Between whirlwind movements and stillness, prowess and poetry, the show takes spectators on an allegorical and acrobatic journey into the heart of the city," according to the circus.

"It seems to be a perfect show for Shanghai, where people from all over the world cooperate and comprehend each other," says Neelanthi Vadivel, the artistic director.

Though it has a theme, "Saltimbanco" does not have a clear story line as do many other Cirque du Soleil works. It provides an open plot that works in different ways with different audiences, says Vadivel. It has been a timeless show and people of different ages respond to the excitement and energy of the acrobatics, the eccentricity and fun of the characters, as well as the costumes and makeup.

Most of the characters in Cirque du Soleil's shows wear face-paint masks to represent their personalities, as do characters in Peking Opera.

"Learning making up is one of the priorities of most young performers entering the group," says Gerard Theoret, who plays the baron in the show. "At first it took me around two hours and 15 minutes to complete my mask, but now I can do it in 90 minutes."

And those 90 minutes of making up provide enough time for him to think about his role and get in character.

The performers first paint a base color on the face to neutralize the natural color. Then they paint delicately and finally add a layer of powder to fix the make-up.

The eyes and mouth are usually covered with exaggerated lines and colors, so that facial expressions can be seen clearly even for spectators in the last row.

Apart from the themes, colors, costumes, variable lighting and live music, Cirque de Soleil also focuses on human artists, rather than daredevils and animals.

Various elements such as opera, ballet, gymnastics, magic and street performance can all be found, as well as circus styles from around the world.

Touring almost everywhere except for Antarctica, Cirque de Soleil is very interested in the big market in China, according to founder Guy Laliberte, who once was a fire-breathing street performer. International-style music, splendid settings and world-class athletes all help the circus create new ideas about traditional circus art.

"China is one of the headwaters of circus," he tells Shanghai Daily. "We always need more mature plays and colorful packaging to open this gate."

"Saltimbanco," one of the oldest shows, has been adapted repeatedly to meet new challenges and audience preferences, says Reggie Lyons, public relations manager of the company.

Moving the show to the vast arena was a risky decision requiring considerable adjustment in the show to make it work on such a big stage.

That includes changes in stage settings, lighting and performance to ensure the best view for all spectators.

"It may influence the tickets sales, but it is all worth it," says Wei Ming, the general manager of Gehua Live Nation Beijing that introduced this show.

Clowns and acrobats may also walk around the audience, chat and joke in different languages to get spectators involved.

"'Saltimbanco' is an experience, not just a show," says Lyons. "Audiences have an emotional and positive reaction because it is an escape from reality."

Date: September 21-25, September 27-October 1,

(8pm, Wednesday to Friday; 4pm and 8pm, Saturday; 1pm and 5pm, Sunday)

Venue: Mercedes-Benz Arena

Address: 1200 Expo Ave.

Tel: 400-620-6006


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend