Friday, May 6, 2016

Cirque du Soleil KURIOS Includes Athens 2004 Olympic Trampoline Influences and Other Surprises

This post is overdue, as time flies when you're having fun.

At the start to March -- on the eve of travels to Los Angeles for the Team USA Olympic Media Summit previewing Rio 2016 -- the folks at Cirque du Soleil kindly treated me to a media ticket to the Atlanta premiere of "KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities" at Atlantic Station. 

A review of this outstanding production remained on my to do list for too many weeks since. 

Now the tent is about to pack up and leave Georgia for Boston and D.C. before New York and Miami later this year -- hopefully this critique will encourage ticket sales for many destinations on the tour map.

Atlanta was the latest stop for this new tour by the Montreal-based enterprise and P.R. client I enjoyed working with from 2004 to 2012. As noted with previous reviews, my teams enjoyed several productions under the Grand Chapiteau.  

For this writer and longtime friends also in attendance, "KURIOS" proved to be a simpler yet more endearing fantasy journey than other recent productions. 

By tapping into reality-based mechanics of the Industrial Revolution -- akin to the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremonies segment featuring Kenneth Branagh and the villainous inventions the actor's character unleashed in the 1999 film "Wild, Wild West" -- Cirque du Soleil "KURIOS" provides entertainment that at once feels "back to basics" yet anything but basic.

Borrowing from the official site for the show, audience members "Step into the curio cabinet of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of time, space and dimension in order to reinvent everything around him" and "Suddenly, the visible becomes invisible, perspectives are transformed, and the world is literally turned upside down."

Things indeed get topsy-turvy many times and many ways during "KURIOS."

For instance, in the back-to-back Russian Cradle Duo, Aerial Bike and Contortion segments of the first act, a handful of performers deliver incredible gravity-defying feats including plenty of air-time soaring high above the audience. The strongman in the duo seems to fling his gymnast waif partner like the men of pairs figure skating or ice dancing, but all his intense tossing leads to a loving bear-hug embrace that left many in the audience swooning (or perhaps sighing with relief he did not drop her!).

On a smaller scale, audiences also meet performers of the little people persuasion, a fully-grounded yo-yo master, and a videographer with the coolest hand-puppet theater act -- ever seen fingers start to break dance before magically appearing atop an audience member's head and shoulders? 

The costumes -- including a pot belly stove-inspired passenger compartment and mobile phone booth, an accordion body suit, and tutus that transform acrobats into fresh catch fish also dazzle. 

Lots of industrialism dark hues give way to brilliantly colors and Dayglow trim at many turns. 

That fish-inclusive act, titled Acronet, brings us to a "KURIOS" Olympic connection. 

According to this video interview describing the segments's inspiration, the Cirque du Soleil coach involved with the tour is an Athens 2004 Olympic trampoline competitor. 

More specifically, the tour's coach and team GB Olympian Gary Smith placed seventh in the 2004 Olympic trampoline final, just 1.5 points behind the gold medalist from Ukraine, Yuri Nikitin. Other gymnasts in the Acronet segment include AcroSports or trampoline World Cup or World Championship gymnasts including Jack Helm (England), Karl L'Ecuyer (Canada), Roman Polishchuk and Sergei Okhai (Ukraine) and Igor Strizhanov (Russia). 

More about "KURIOS" -- best ... Cirque ... soundtrack ... ever. The live musicians and vocalists bring this show to life more than I recall in previous tours. My personal favorite is the piano and vocalist duet "Departure" that perfectly scores the aforementioned hand puppet segment in the second act. The song is reminiscent of the Thomas Newman piano tunes of "American Beauty" and its dancing plastic bag scene, with as much soft/quiet contemplative effect.

There's plenty to love in this Cirque du Soleil cabinet. You'll be amazed how time, and many a performer, flies during an evening at this show. Enjoy!

Most photos via Cirque du Soleil copyright Martin Girard with costume credit to Philippe Guillotel. Logo via this link. Grand Chapiteau photo by Nicholas Wolaver.

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