When you think Shakespeare, you probably imagine dry, rhyming verse about love and betrayal and actors dressed like old nobility. But swap the Globe for a circus tent and replace the players with some of the world’s most talented contortionists and acrobats, and you’ll get Cirque du Soleil’s most magical effort to date. Amaluna is a wildly loose adaptation of the Bard’s last play, The Tempest, and it summons all the storm and myth of the original without leaning too heavily on the rules of the plot (let alone gravity).
I recently attended the opening night of this acclaimed acrobatic spectacle, and I was thoroughly awed and entertained. Featuring a cast that includes Olympic caliber gymnasts and world-class acrobat artists, Amaluna captivates the audience in a show of mystery and imagination. And while the entire experience is an unforgettable adventure that seemed to push the limits of both the human body and the human imagination, there were two acts that left me completely breathless.
From street performers with spinning plates to variety show acts on unicycles, we’ve all seen balancing acts before. But nothing prepared me for Manipulation, which starred a lithe and impossibly precise woman called the Balance Goddess. She performs for the star-crossed Romeo and Miranda, but her palm branch act had the whole audience holding their breath (before she promptly took it away completely).
During the performance, the goddess balances fifteen palm branches of varying sizes on top of each other, carefully and delicately placing end upon end before it’s finally time to balance the whole thing on top of her head. The whole process is an act of storytelling as much as it is a demonstration of her extraordinary coordination and concentration skills, and the disastrous conclusion is as graceful as it is climatic.
Photos by Pouya Dianat
Cerceau and Waterbowl
One of the show’s most exquisite acts revolved around the cerceau, an aerial hoop that the Moon Goddess uses to bless Miranda with the gift of sensuality (and, ultimately, her first kiss). She rides this hoop through what looks and feels like the deep blue night sky, as stars and bubbles surround her and she sings a captivating spell to the innocent girl. She is luminous and lunar all at once, and the show’s effects only add to the amazing feats she accomplishes with only the support of her own muscles and that thin loop.
Throughout the song, this hoop lowers closer to the illuminated waterbowl below, where Miranda swims and splashes and becomes transfixed by the balancing vision above her. This giant glass bowl is more like a chalice in an ethereal table setting; it glows blue and draws every eye in the audience into this romantic and whimsical experience. I absolutely love the way it captured youthful curiosity, which was an unexpected feat for a performance that starred such a well-cast goddess.
Photos by Pouya Dianat
Amaluna is a tempestuous tour de force that’s particularly significant because of how timeless and human it is. It’s proof that the greatest entertainment doesn’t require CGI. Somehow both simple and spectacular, Cirque du Soleil: Amaluna is the ethical and distraction-free show that humanity needs now more than ever. And trust me when I say: Shakespeare has never looked this good.
Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna will be playing Under the Grand Chapiteau at Atlantic Station in Atlanta thru November 30. Get you tickets to this amazing show HERE.