'Saltimboca' a Cirque extravaganza

Gordon Jones
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A spectacular display of acrobatic prowess marked the Cirque de Soleil performance Thursday night at Mile One Centre in St. Johns. Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Mile One Centre was packed on Thursday for the opening night of the Cirque de Soleil circus extravaganza entitled Saltimboca.

The large audience was markedly familial and multi-generational, well provisioned with cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs, and even pizza slices for the outing.

Some of the show is standard fare: clowns warming up and interacting with the audience, inviting audience participation or calling up volunteers and plants.

The principal clown is used for comic episodes of traditional miming and gagging throwing invisible balls, slipping on unseen banana skins, or getting stuck in a toilet with overflowing cistern.

These workaday routines are calculated to divert the audience while the troupe is changing costume and regrouping for another of their glitzily choreographed, exotically costumed sound and light numbers that are their trademark.

Their other trademark, of course, is spectacular aerial and terrestrial dance and gymnastics.

Above and beyond the traditional clown business, the Cirque de Soleil repertoire is a fusion of modern dance, pop opera and heavy rock music, and expert tumbling, juggling, balancing, acrobatics, gymnastics, and trapeze work.

To driving, mega-amplified music from a five-piece band, athletic routines demanding considerable upper-body strength are executed on scaffolding.

A trick cyclist does incredible things on and with his machine.

A fast-handed and light-footed juggler elegantly handles combinations of patterns with three, then four, then five, then six, then seven balls.

After the intermission, the highlights are aerial, starting with high jumping, tumbling and catching exciting acts that are executed with panache, the result of long and precise rehearsal.

This is followed by two female athletes on a single trapeze, performing a number that is part ballet, part gymnastics, and entirely breathtaking in its strength, dexterity, grace, and risk.

An equally beautiful achievement, although less hair-raising in its moves, is executed by four aerial dancers working on trapeze and bungee, sweeping and swooping in unison to romantically evocative music almost swimming in the air.

Gorgeous, thrilling

It scarcely needs to be said that, as well as being gorgeous to look at, Cirque de Soleil productions are thrilling in their challenging and artistic physicality.

You come away from their show with a renewed admiration of the beauty and the excitement of what talented minds and highly trained human bodies can achieve.

Ticket prices for shows by this internationally renowned company are hefty, starting at $35 and going north from there. The ride is worth the fare, although I confess to dispensing with the glossy programme at $15 a pop.

The Cirque de Soleils Saltimboca continues a four-day run at Mile One Centre, with two shows daily, until Sunday. The evening show starts at 7:30 p.m. With one 20-minute intermission to hit the concession stands and the washrooms, the show runs until 10 p.m.

Take note, lineups for concessions and washrooms are awesome.

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