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Amaluna Review

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Amaluna Review: Cirque Du Soleil's 32nd Production
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Amaluna is the Cirque du Soleil's 32nd production, with matriarchy, Goddess lore, girl-to-woman transitions and love as central themes. Below features a review of Amaluna, as seen April 25, 2012 at the worldwide media premiere in Montreal.

Photo courtesy of Cirque Du Soleil © Laurent Labat
April 26, 2012 - On the outside, it seems like performance art reviewers have a plush job. We do when a show is a triumph. But what about when it's not? We're faced with two options. With that being said, I could tell you Amaluna is dazzling, electrifying, magical and exquisite, close the critique with that and ensure my invitation to the next hottest party.

Or, I could take the road less traveled, and tell you what I saw.

I saw a “peacock dance” so elementary, I could have reproduced the scene with two days practice. Maybe less. And I don't say that lightly. It really was that simplistic, that devoid of difficulty, that lacking in originality, an insult to the hard-earned cash people save up to catch a Cirque presentation, money spent under the assumption that Cirque offers the best in class, productions where the dollar sign is no object and the finest talent is, consequently, right at its fingertips, directed to push and sometimes exceed its limits.

What else did I witness? My soirée companion doze off midway through the first half of the show. A Cirque show.

Had I paid for my seats, they would have cost me over $225, what you would roughly cough up for two good Broadway seats in New York. But in the case of Cirque's Big Top, that will buy you last row. So you better believe I expect nothing less than excellence.

Here's the good news. I also saw two scenes the equivalent of time-suspended magic. One, a balancing act involving a gorgeously sensual, voluptuous woman manipulating palm leaf ribs with her feet like a deva, the audience following along as the “balance goddess” shared her every breath with the Big Top, controlled exhales audible like a lover's heartbeat pressed against one's ear, with a faint chime breaking through the suspense. Thirteen suspended ribs later, the goddess destroys her labored creation with a simple flick, removing its tiniest link. Its seemingly most insignificant piece is as powerful as its largest. The blond amazon elicited a standing ovation.

That, my friends, is Cirque du Soleil.

Three acts later comes the tight wire, a scene representing lovers living a delicate balancing act. Two men in white, two braided women in '20s flapper wear. Tight wires positioned just a few feet from the ground, fatal falls are unlikely, as we watched one gentleman tumble twice, unscathed. But you don't always need risk of spinal injury to make a circus act fly. And it certainly didn't take away from the scene's creativity and execution, four wires set up in the shape of a lozenge with its walkers speedily teetering by, sometimes in heels. And ballet pointe. Near the end, spinning helicopter seeds covered them like rose petals, falling to the floor. The act could have been cut by a minute or two, tightening the pace and by extension, heightening its wonder-inducing effect, but it was near close to perfect, music, falls and all. Yet another surreal, eerie, signature Cirque moment it was, proposing new, fresh, artistic creativity wrapped in social commentary AND highly technical physical prowess.

But these moments are so far and few in between in Amaluna. Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes of oh-my-god-wow for $225? I sighed in disbelief that this was the same troupe who produced Saltimbanco, which left me in awe as a kid, one beaming with pride that a once-tiny troupe from Quebec, my home, partially made possible by Guy Laliberté, a now billionaire who was once so poor that he had to sleep on park benches, showed the entire world what our little village can do. A bit later in life, he became a sort of a hero to me, suggesting that odds were meant to be beaten and that if you try hard enough and long enough, you can even remain true to your founding principles as you make a crap load of cash.

The rest of Amaluna's acts, and I say this will all due respect to the performers who are so clearly talented, it was been-there-seen-that. And the bar appears lowered in terms of technical complexity and execution. However, people who've never once attended a Cirque production won't feel the same way. As for everyone else, hey, as long as you're made of money, you won't care how much the admission price sets you back in relation to what's actually delivered on stage, productions which are being pumped out faster and faster by the circus juggernaut than ever before. The company has been around for almost 28 years and just over one third of its productions were released in the last four.

As for Amaluna's storyline –- Queen of the Goddesses loves daughter, daughter transitions from girl to woman, daughter falls in love, daughter and lover are separated against their will, daughter and lover fight to reunite as Queen watches from a distance -- it was unengaging. Unevenly paced. Unromantic. Romeo climbing up the pole in an attempt to reach his lady love obviously involved high-level skill. It just wasn't quite as clean as what was exhibited in Saltimbanco. It was also missing the passion I expect from a man in love who will stop at nothing to find his sweetheart.

All in all, Amaluna left me empty. I couldn't feel the show's soul. And the troupe I grew to love for the impossibilities they proved to me were in fact very much possible, for the dreams Cirque's cofounder instilled in me, well, I can't feel its soul anymore either. I'm starting to wonder if Cirque still has one.

In line with About.com's and the New York Times Company's full disclosure policy, readers should be aware that Evelyn Reid was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of reviewing Amaluna, a common procedure in the entertainment industry. Also note that the latter gratuity has not influenced this review. For more information on full disclosure at About.com, please consult our ethics policy.

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