Cirque de Soleil – Totem

By on 12 November, 2012 in Art, Fun, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

There are a lot of great things about living in Midtown Montgomery, but one often overlooked feature is the proximity to other exceptionally cool cities. Within a few hours, you can be in New Orleans, Nashville, Birmingham, Mobile, or Atlanta. On Sunday, we departed from our fair home city for the ATL to see a performance of Cirque de Soleil at Atlanta’s strange outdoor mall, Atlantic Station. Allow us to give the show our highest recommendation. You really, really should drive over to Atlanta to see this thing.

We weren’t really sure what to expect. All we knew is that it was a circus without animals. Given our opinions about animal cruelty, that was a plus. But beyond that, we didn’t really know what we were getting into. Turns out that the Cirque is a massive global production company with dozens of shows circling the globe at any given time. The one that’s in Atlanta right now is called Totem, and all we knew about it was that it was somehow about human evolution.

It is true that there is an underlying story (more of a theme, really) about human evolution in the production, but we definitely did not expect our day to include Charles Darwin standing in an upside down Erlenmeyer flask, flinging glowing balls around in a hypnotic juggling routine, while being watched by someone in a surprisingly realistic monkey costume. Though Darwin does float around the margins of the show a bit, the guiding narrative isn’t so much a story as a framework that organizes a number of astonishing acrobatic performances and some amusing clowning around.

When you go into the tent, you’re seated with a view of a giant turtle shell. This invokes the cosmological myth of the entire world being on the back of a giant turtle. There’s also a sloping area magically lit to look like rippling water and some reeds. It turns out that there is a live band, hiding behind some well placed bamboo, and they put together an amazing score for the show, linking rhythms to movements in uncanny ways. They were spectacular.

As a human disco ball descends twirling from the ceiling, the show begins. The acts unfolded in rapid succession: improbable ring stunts, hoop dancing, ladies covered with purple disco mirrors spinning carpets with their feet, women on unicycles displaying impeccable timing and balance, pole balance and climbing, bouncing on flexible balance beams and astonishing trapeze gymnastics. We found ourselves holding our breath sometimes, and other times feeling the kind of gleeful delight that you have as a child, but sometimes forget about as you get older. We are not the kind of people that often sit rapt on the edges of our seats, but there we were.

We often rave about the stage mechanics at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, but the set and lights at Cirque were among the best we have ever seen. The effects are all the more impressive given that you are essentially in a mall parking lot in Atlanta, witnessing a traveling show. This is no permanent facility, yet there is “the scorpion bridge,” a moving set piece unlike anything we had ever seen. It curled and uncurled and shot lasers and then vanished into an uncanny illusion of an ocean (and then lava) created by video and light. All of the seats are good.

This is something that is very easy for people in Montgomery to get to. There is lots of parking and it’s a simple straight drive from Montgomery. All in all, going to Atlanta made for a lovely Sunday in November. We walked around Atlantic Station, took photos in front of their comically large Christmas tree, listened to a surprisingly good electronic music DJ that had set up in some open area (people were hula hooping and stuff), and had tasty drinks and appetizers at something called Meehan’s Public House Irish pub. It was a great way to spend a day and we’re lucky to live close enough to Atlanta to take it all in — and lucky to be able to come home to Montgomery where the traffic is less terrible and the drivers are less insane.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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