The lure of dazzling Cirque du Soleil

Canadian troupe will perform in April at Canton's `all cleaned up' Harbor Point

February 06, 2003|By Michelle Jabes and Meagan Dilks | Michelle Jabes and Meagan Dilks,SUN STAFF

That Cirque du Soleil's show Dralion was inspired in part by the quest for harmony between nature and man makes the troupe's scheduled stop at Harbor Point, a former toxic waste site, seem all the more appropriate.

"Not since the tall ships came here has there been such a spectacle on our waterfront," said Mayor Martin O'Malley yesterday in announcing the April 11-27 performances by the famed circus of acrobats, contortionists and clowns.

O'Malley called the tour stop a perfect opportunity to begin showing off Harbor Point - a peninsula that was home to the former AlliedSignal chromium plant and the site of a $100 million cleanup operation. The mayor hopes the Canadian troupe's first visit to Baltimore will solidify Harbor Point, vacant for a decade, as the new "premier destination" in the Inner Harbor.

He said he expects the performances to draw 75,000 to Harbor Point to see Cirque du Soleil and visit the site, which O'Malley says is "all cleaned up and ready to go."

Dralion is a fusion of Eastern philosophy and ancient Chinese acrobatics with the avant-garde styles of Cirque du Soleil. The title is a combination of its two main symbols, the dragon (the East) and lion (the West). To represent the four elements that maintain life - air, water, fire and earth -Dralion incorporates four colors - blue, green, red and ochre - in costumes and set designs to create what Cirque du Soleil calls a "celebration of life." Fifty-five performers from nine countries, including Brazil, France, China and the Ivory Coast, will perform on a futuristic aluminum set under a blue-and-yellow big top.

During the good-natured press conference yesterday at City Hall, Cirque du Soleil spokeswoman Renee-Claude Menard, sporting a clown nose, inducted an initially reluctant O'Malley into the troupe with a shiny red schnoz of his own. Contortionist Elena Lev performed for a crowd of about 50 on hand for the announcement.

"Cirque du Soleil is about dreams, emotions and pushing the limits," Menard said, adding that Baltimore - which for her is reminiscent of her hometown, Montreal - had been a city on the troupe's "wish list" for a long time.

Tickets for Dralion are $45-$65 for adults, $31.50-$45.50 for children.

For tickets or information, call 1-800-678-5440 or check the Web site at www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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