By Christopher Heide
Cirque du Soleil wins again, living up to its reputation with its overly infectious iteration of Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, a chic, steam-punk infused experience. How does Cirque du Soleil manage to top itself with every new show? By raising the stakes with its gravity defying acts, constantly igniting a nervous energy from it audience.
Camped under an enormous blue and yellow circus tent, Kurios is a strange and immersing experience even before the show begins. Entering into the grand arena, you are able to gaze with wonderment at an array of bizarre and marvelous contraptions. Robots roam the stage, amidst a sea of rusty metal structures, antique lights and Victorian-era phonographs.This is not your mother circus; in fact, the whole setting is eerily reminiscent of a broken down, jazz-infused carnival, ala American Horror Story; Freakshow. All of the random commotion on stage simply helps to set the ambiance of the unusual world the show presents. Edgy and antique at the same time, this show is a welcome departure from the dreamlike quality of past Cirque du Soleil iterations.
According to the press release, the show is described as follows:
"In an alternate yet familiar past, in a place where wonders abound for those who trust their imagination, a Seeker discovers that in order to glimpse the marvels that lie just below the surface, we must first learn to close our eyes. In his larger-than-life curio cabinet, the Seeker is convinced that there exists a hidden, invisible world – a place where the craziest ideas and the grandest dreams lie waiting. A collection of otherworldly characters suddenly steps into his makeshift mechanical world. When the outlandish, benevolent characters turn his world upside down with a touch of poetry and humor in an attempt to ignite the Seeker’s imagination, his curios jump to life one by one before his very eyes.What if by engaging our imagination and opening our minds we could unlock the door to a world of wonders?"
The entire show has a rapid pace, expertly balancing odd moments of character humor with genuinely impressive stunts. One particularly adrenaline-filled act, Aerial Straps, occurs early in the second half of the show. According to the Kurios website, the act is described as follows:
"Siamese twins hanging in the air from straps are separated at last when they fly high above the stage in a series of acrobatic figures, sometimes as a pair, sometimes solo. The two artists soar to impressive heights and crisscross above the stage while performing synchronized figures that require flawless timing."
The synchronicity of the performers is nothing short of astounding. What really drives the thrill of this act, however, is the fact that the "twins" often soar mere feet above the audiences head. The intimate setting of the show could come off as claustrophobic, but instead the audience is left feeling as if they are directly immersed in the action.
Another highlight of the show, the grand finale, is described as follows:
"A group of 13 artists perform spectacular sequences of perfectly synchronized acrobatics and human pyramids that showcase the amazing agility of the human body. In addition to standing three and four high on each other’s shoulders, the artists take off, somersault and crisscross in the air on three levels: the ground, a monolith positioned centre-stage, and in the audience."
In addition to being flawless, this routine is extremely nerve-wracking to watch. The acrobats perform stunts so technically advanced that the audience is left astounded by their mere execution. At the end of the routine, the applause was so thunderous that it was shocking that no standing ovation occurred.
Other standout acts included the beautiful contortionists and the gravity-defying trampoline acrobats, both of whom were costumed as aquatic creatures during their routines.