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Cirque du Soleil � more than a trip to the circus
By Rebecca Wicks

When I was a kid, the prospect of a trip to the circus was something that my wharped imagination could go crazy with. Ringmasters sticking their heads into lion’s mouths, elephants balancing on tricycles and tigers wearing frilly dresses, carrying dwarves on their backs as thought they were ponies � these were just a few of the things that made their way from Disney movies to the realms of my childish dreaming.

Cirque du Soleil (French for "Circus of the Sun”, take whatever ideas we might still be harboring about the circus (no matter where they came from) and turn them completely upside down. Last night I felt my jaw drop in awe and amazement and there weren’t even any lions involved. Or dwarves, for that matter...

The group have come a pretty long way since their humble beginnings in Baie-Saint-Paul back in 1984, when two former street performers, Guy Lalibert� and Daniel Gauthier got together a performing troupe of 73 to make crowds smile. As it stands, the Cirque du Soleil of today employs approximately 3,500 people from over 40 countries, and we’ve been lucky enough to get them back into culturally-starved Dubai for a whole month. Thank goodness!

If you’ve never experienced a Cirque show before, prepare to be impressed! Each carefully choreographed performance is a melting pot of circus styles from all around the world, each wowing families and people of all ages (take your 4 year old, or your 94 year old gran) with its own central theme and storyline. You find yourself sucked in somehow, by the creepy clowns who mumble their own strange language and live in their own eerie dream-world. You gasp out loud as contortionists bend and twist in ways that cause physical pain for most of us to even think about, and through continuous live music and an operatic ballad for every ”scene”, you can’t help but want to run away again, with the circus.

Who are these strange people behind the masks and stage lights, who must train 23 hours a day to be as nimble and daring as they seem? The beauty of it, and part of the charm, is the air of mystery that surrounds the show. It’s more an art-form than a show, more a dance than a circus.

So what’s it all about? Well, in spite of the whole production costing more than $3 million USD to produce, chances are you won’t really know, but the good news is, it doesn’t really matter. If you can’t quite follow the storyline, here’s a tip: it’s basically about the abuse of power and a subsequent struggle for freedom, but I say check out the muscle-clad men in lycra jumping like monkeys from the ceilings and don’t worry about why they’re doing it.

Alegr�a, now showing at Dubai Ibn Battuta, was created for Cirque du Soleil's tenth anniversary, and rumour has it that the concept for the show was dreamed up over dinner by Franco Dragone, show choreographer Juan Isidro Casilla and Guy Lalibert�. Allegedly, Dragone wanted this show to be dark and heavy � a contrast to the glitz, glamour and showbiz nature of the others. As a result, the show uses darker lighting and music than previous Cirque productions, and there’s even a touch of gothic in the arches on stage, and the costumes. Another nifty fact - the music of Alegr�a has charmed so many people that the show's soundtrack is now the best-selling Cirque du Soleil album to date. Bag yourself a copy when you go from the on-site shop.

”Alegr�a! Alegr�a! Alegr�a!' It's Spanish for 'Joy! Joy! Joy!” says Dragone. ”Where I come from, it's what you say when you're in pain. It means life goes on."

As the recession clamps its clammy hands around our purse-strings, sometimes it’s good to splash out on the things that make us smile. Sometimes it’s OK stand up, clap, and echo Dragone’s all-important reminder: ”The show must go on!”

Don’t miss this incredible night out � one of the greatest gifts Dubai has been given in a while. Forget the lions, tigers and elephants on tricycles, here’s proof that humans are more amazing and capable than any other creature on the face of the Earth. And isn’t that a reassuring thing to carry with us, as we go about the daily-grind?

Posted: 12 March 2009

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