Cirque du Soleil began with two French Canadian street performers aspiring to transform the traditional circus by merging circus arts with street entertainment sans animals. This contemporary circus now embodies 19 touring and resident shows around the world, each with its own story and theme. Dralion, which initially began its tour in 1999 under the grand chapiteau, debuted at the Citizens Business Bank Arena last night for a limited Southern California run. The show is a unique fusion of the traditional Chinese circus with Cirque’s contemporary elements.
The title of the show, Dralion, is a linguistic blend of “dragon” and “lion” each of which respectively represent the east and the west. This merging of eastern and western cultures is a dominant theme throughout the show.
As is characteristic of “le nouveau cirque,” audiences are initially drawn in by the humor of the clown trio even before the show begins. They amuse and entertain at the seeming expense of an unsuspecting audience member and bridge the gap between act transitions.
Each show has a loose storyline although not necessarily appreciable in Dralion. In ancient Eastern philosophy, there is an endless quest for harmony between humans and nature. Thus, the story revolves around the four elements of air, water, fire, and earth depicted in human form. In Dralion, “cultures blend, man and nature are one, and balance is achieved.”
What audiences will likely remember after the close of the show are Dralion’s stunning, jaw-dropping performances. No two shows are alike, so while you may have seen a performance where an artist juggles, it will be very different from show to show.
What is so striking about Dralion’s acrobatic artistry is the constant juxtaposition between precision and ease. Aerialists seemingly defy gravity as they use trampolines to leap, dive, flip and even float against a backdrop-turned landing/launch pad. A simple game of jump rope becomes an awe-inspiring display of flips, tricks, and even human pyramids…all to the beat of a skipping rope. A group of male artists dive, flip, and even throw themselves and each other through small wooden hoops, some of which are rotating, evoking more than a few gasps. In one of the most beautiful acts of the show, a couple perform an aerial “pas de deux” with a long blue cloth suspended from the ceiling. Strength and artistry are effortlessly displayed at impossible heights.
Contributing to the mood and tone of the show is the score, performed live though the majority of the musicians, save the vocalists, remain unseen. The music is a harmonious blend of East and West sounds evoked through acoustic and electric instruments, and rhythmic and lyrical themes which heighten the dramatic, striking moments audiences have come to expect from Cirque du Soleil.
Dralion continues its Southern California tour in Long Beach and San Diego this November, 2012.
Citizens Business Bank Arena
4000 East Ontario Center Parkway
Ontario, CA 91764, United States
Long Beach Arena
300 East Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90802, United States
Caryn Bailey blogs at Rockin’ Mama. Photos by Daniel Desmarais.