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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 11, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 24
Kooza a journey into pure fantasy
Arts & Entertainment
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Kooza a journey into pure fantasy

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Cirque du Soleil's
Kooza
Marymoor Park
Through
July 11


As the musical Barnum states: "Just to say the word electrifies: 'Circus!'" and nowhere is this truer than at Cirque du Soleil. The latest show just opened under the big tent at Marymoor Park, and if the costumes don't bewitch you, the amazing feats of aerial acrobatics and contortionism will. This incarnation is called Kooza, which is derived from the Sanskrit word for "box," but thinking outside of "the box" is only one aspect of how Cirque du Soleil works.

The storyline is deliberately minimalistic to enhance the visual spectacle that has become Cirque's signature. The Innocent is a young child who is lead through a fantasy kingdom by a creature called The Trickster. Here he finds The King, a burlesque harlequin with two fools, who are all dedicated to finding and keeping The King's crown. Along the way, The Innocent is shown a dream world of fantasy with unique creatures and stunning visuals.

Subjects of the kingdom appear in colorful costumes and begin to spin a world of enchantment. The land includes contortionists who twist their bodies into what can only be described as a human Rubik's cube. Human towers (three people high) are constructed atop giant balls rolling about the stage. As the people-pillars tumble, they fly through the air and bounce on trampoline tarps stretched taut by other members of the land. Trapeze artists spiral high above the ground with nothing but gravity between themselves and the earth below. High-wire performers balance on tightropes above the heads of those watching. Four performers ride bicycles and show the sheer definition of what can only be described as perfect balance. But it is in the Land of the Dancing Skeletons that the audience is treated to the most spectacular and gravitational defiance. Among costumes that shame the best New Orleans Mardi Gras, The Innocent finds himself presented with The Wheel of Death.

Arguably one of the most astonishing acts Cirque du Soleil has ever presented, The Wheel of Death is a marvelous wonder. Lowered from the ceiling with great pomp and circumstance, the wheel is shaped like a baby's rattle with two large "hamster wheels" at either end. Two men dressed like carnivále demons appear and take their places on either end, entering the giant wheels. The speed of the wheel is fueled completely by human power, and as these men start running and spinning their wheels - literally - the entire display turns on an axis. Jumping from inside to outside - and back - of their spinning wheels, these men thumb their noses at gravity with what can only be described as death-defying assuredness, evoking smashing applause and audible sounds of wonder from the audience.

But Cirque du Soleil isn't only about heart-stopping acts of sheer visual delight; there are plenty of comedic scenes to entertain younger (or even younger at heart) audience members, as well. The Cirque clowns are highly entertaining, and unlike American circus clowns, they don't hide behind heavily painted faces with scary fixed expressions. Since most of the people working at Cirque are presented in costumes (including concession stand attendees and souvenir sellers), it is often difficult to figure out who the clowns are before they have roped you into being part of their act - and it's all in good fun. Pretending to be ushers, they purposely lead people to the wrong seats as well as taking them on long treks, crossing over and circling the perimeters of the stage before seating the guests. Yellow caution tape is tied around audience members by people dressed as stagehands. While the clowns do present some buffoonery, it is all done on a higher level than 30 passengers exiting a compact car or thrown buckets of water that becomes paper confetti.

Keeping with its previous reputations, Cirque du Soleil is an incredible show not to be missed. As Irving Berlin wrote, "The costumes, the scenery, the makeup, the props & there is NO business like show business" - and no show business like Cirque du Soleil.

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