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TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENT: Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Amaluna’ is an Amazing Showcase of Acrobatics, Comedy, and Music

Nov 08, 2019
by Evan Joel
The nimbleness and agility on display at Cirque du Soleil’s production of “Amaluna,” currently playing under the Big Top at Oracle Park in San Francisco, is nothing less than spectacular, featuring performers who cover the entire circus playbook.

The story is set on an island whose name is an amalgam of “ama,” or “mother,” and “luna,” or “moon.” As in “The Tempest,” the place is presided over by a sorcerer, only here she’s named Prospera. With her daughter, Miranda, coming of age, Prospera arranges a celebration. She also provides a worthy suitor by conjuring a storm that shipwrecks a boatload of men, from whose midst emerges Romeo (a bit of Shakespearean cross-referencing).

The first of the breathtaking acts, many of which feature women, includes two twins in gold attire on unicycles, as they spin and dance in stereo, never once losing their balance despite cycling at a head-shaking rapid pace. Another is an aerial straps routine that features three fearless women who soar above the audience, and then there is another act in which a group of crimson-outfitted tribal women twist, flip, and catch themselves on uneven bars in a seamless spectacle of kinetic art.

As for the male-ensemble acts, the teeter-totter performance at the beginning of act two is breathtaking for not only how high the jumpers are able to ascend inside the Big Top, but for how well they navigate the danger of doing an inordinate number of mid-air rotations before coming down on the small surface area of either end of the seesaw, catapulting the next aerialist into what seems like the stratosphere.

In addition, while there are some females involved, the Banquine act at the close of “Amaluna” highlights the raw strength of the males who shoulder a pyramid of their gymnastic peers and put their hands together to create a landing pad for others who are launched into their general vicinity.

Certainly, romance is in the air for Miranda and Romeo — and the performers who portray them flourish with their own solo acts. Miranda contorts her body inside the water bowl before attempting a hand-balancing routine while dripping wet when just a slip of the finger would spell catastrophe. Romeo has audience in awe as he climbs the Chinese Pole, orienting his body so that he’s upside down, facing the floor, before purposely loosening his grip and letting go, stopping his head short just mere inches from paralysis.

The juggler depicting Cali deserves great accolades for his charisma and precision, as he balances a series of balls thrown above him, over his shoulders, between his legs, and behind his back while standing on the water tank and doing a stop-motion hip-hop dance.

The most incredible feat, however, and one that perhaps is worthy of the price of admission by itself is demonstrated by the Zen-like discipline of Lara Jacobs Rigolo, a.k.a. the Balance Goddess, who can be heard breathing amid the gasping silence of the audience, as she stabilizes on one leg, picking up one palm leaf rib after another with her toes to construct an entire rib cage, which are held together so precariously that one large exhale would result in its toppling.

The comedy that the show offers is undeniably enchanting in “Amaluna,” and is particularly projected with superb laugh-out-loud prowesss by Miranda’s purple-haired and full-figured nanny, Mainha, and Romeo’s rosy-cheeked manservant, Papulya. The twosome’s infatuation with each other is conveyed with a certain slapstick flair depicted right out of a Charlie Chaplin film, as they articulate their desires with fiercely exaggerated pantomiming.

Musically, “Amaluna” thrives on an invigorating rock ‘n’ roll mix of guitars, bass, cellos, and percussion composed by Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard. The numbers are performed by an all-female band with stimulating sounds that blend in perfectly with the death-defying pageantry that is to come.

Overall, “Amaluna” stacks up with any Cirque du Soleil production as it succeeds on several counts with an astonishing amalgam of acrobatics, satire, and musicianship that is certain to entertain individuals of all ages.

Since 1984, the Montreal, Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil has produced countless shows, each with their own theme and collection of agile performers for whom natural laws seemingly don’t apply. One of them is “Amaluna.” It may be the best Cirque du Soleil production to date because it so effortlessly blends high-degree-of-difficulty feats with pulse-pounding music and well-acted comic relief. This predominately female production clearly has something for everyone and is one touring show not to be missed.


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