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My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

Luzia: a circus with a seductive heart full of wonder


by Drew Rowsome -
Photos by Lawrence Labat


Luzia continues until Sun, Oct 16 at the Grand Chapiteau in the Portlands, 51 Commissioners St. cirquedusoleil.com

A simmering fever dream of a Cirque du Soleil show, Luzia, transports a rapt audience to a stylized magical Mexico full of creatures, music and spectacular feats of daring. For Cirque du Soleil fans and fanatics Luzia offers some intriguing treats, for newcomers it is a seductive introduction to an artform without fear of entertaining. Seated beside and behind us were two sets of children being treated to their first encounter with a circus. The anticipation and nervous excitement blossomed into gasps and screams of delight, and was a show to rival what was unfolding onstage. For those of us of the more adult persuasion, past the years of innocent wonder and much tougher to surprise, Luzia had its own plans.

Luzia opens with hummingbirds pushing wheelbarrows containing watering can-hatted, utterly captivating robots into a field of flowers. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man, the little robots are emblazoned with glowing hearts on their chests. The heart graphic repeats in the costumes to come, and as well as an important symbol, it is a signal that Luzia itself beats like a warm open heart. The tin men's labours and kibbitzing are interrupted by the arrival of a Monarch butterfly (Shelli Epstein) and a giant horse who run and leap on a treadmill before being replaced by a flock of acrobat hummingbirds who leap through hoops. And it only gets more mesmerizing and astonishing from there.

It is the second half that takes an adult turn as scantily-clad acrobat pole dancers glide onto stage to be followed by a lucha wrestler with breathtaking abs who swings to the very heights of the grand chapiteau, his cape stretched out behind. An aerial straps number wherein a Tarzan-esque Benjamin Courtenay - flinging his long wet hair as he alternately soars and plunges into a pool of water is the second-most erotic Cirque du Soleil performance I have ever seen - seduces a leopard (a Lion King-style puppet amped up to beyond lifelikeness) and the entire audience. Aleksei Goloborodko is revealed in a religious ritual complete with candles, and his impossible contortions marvel as much as his casual masculine appeal. The skill and artistry on display detonates a subtle erotic charge that is as delightful and disturbing as it is arousing.

In the first act Ugo Laffolay's hand balancing act is not only as inconceivable as his physique, but he winks, flexes and makes his pecs jump, in acknowledgement that he is a cartoon, a superhero, come to life. It is an incredible display of the outer limits of physical appeal, the outer limits of what a human body can do, and a charming display of hilarious humility. When the trapeze and hoop artists, the clown and the singer are drenched by a shower of rain, their ecstasy radiates outwards and envelopes the audience. Even the rain, which could easily have been a gimmick, takes on a personality and grows from a special effect into another character, Liberace's Dancing Waters or the Bellagio fountains made gigantic and given a theatrical gloss.

Imagery is borrowed from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fellini, Mexican folklore, circus history, Disney, butterfly migrations and a dizzying number of sources, to create a dream-like mood that is irresistible. The stunning Adagio, where the astonishingly flexible Naomi Zimmerman is flung from muscleman to muscleman like an empowered rag doll, fuses a fiery tango in a smoky bar with derring-do, musicians wearing alligator heads, and a herd of mysterious creatures and insects. It is so clever and matter-of-fact spectacular that it is like entering a Dali painting starring Betty Boop. 

With Luzia, Cirque du Soleil has moved beyond circus to create a theatrical/performance art/dance hybrid that is totally unique and utterly beguiling. The acts flow from one to another (perhaps the only flaw, the acts are so embedded that, aside from grandstanding jugglers Rudolf Janecek and Abou Troaré, they are not given the chance to build to a climax or milk applause) making the massive technology that powers the show all but invisible (just how they clean up all that water is as intriguingly puzzling as the prominent erection on one of the comic cacti who meander through the action). Luzia is a story told on peyote, a folk tale by a campfire, a non-narrative that winds and twists on the imagery of the fragile but invincible Monarch butterfly, to talk directly to the heart. When the wonderful clown Eric Fool Koller, who has been our hapless narrator and guide through this universe of wonders, raises his arms into the cascading rain, it is cathartic and almost unbearably moving - there is no logical or intellectual explanation, no interpretation I can offer, but my heart understood and was blissfully overwhelmed.

Luzia continues until Sun, Oct 16 at the Grand Chapiteau in the Portlands, 51 Commissioners St. cirquedusoleil.com


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