`Circus' was then

`Cirque' is now

Avant-garde style eclipses traditional circus

Stage: theater, music, dance

April 10, 2003|By Michelle Jabes | Michelle Jabes,SUN STAFF

You've seen its otherworldly face staring you down from dozens of Baltimore venues for months now. A cacophony of color, fur and feathers, the creature's diamond-encrusted grin effortlessly captures the imagination. You've heard its name on the radio and tried out the smooth, foreign sounding syllables on your own tongue. Finally, Cirque du Soleil's creation, Dralion, has arrived in Baltimore.

This dazzling creature that has been decorating posters and city buses exemplifies Dralion perfectly. The whiskered beast is a fusion of the dragon and the lion, Chinese icons representing the East and the West. The show, featuring more than 55 artists from 11 countries, comprises the largest number of Chinese acrobats a Cirque production has ever had.

Combining ancient Chinese acrobatic traditions with avant-garde Cirque du Soleil style, Dralion celebrates the Earth's four elements -- air, water, fire and earth -- using music, color, light and human feats that seem to defy the laws of Nature herself.

"Your senses are just overwhelmed," says Dralion publicist Magdalena Vandenberg. "You see all these things, and all you can say is just `wow.' " Skilled artists perform a variety of acts, including double trapeze, single-hand balancing and hoop diving.

But although strong in acrobatic content, the show incorporates all types of performers, including clowns, ballet dancers and singers.

"It's really a celebration of all the performance arts," says Vandenberg, "One minute, you feel like you're at the theater, the next at a rock concert, the next at the circus. It's quite a magical recipe."

And that recipe can only be made with the best of ingredients. Cirque du Soleil talent scouts travel all over the world, searching cheerleading and gymnastic competitions, Olympic tournaments, even street corners, in attempts to seek out the best of the best. But for some, it is chance that brings Cirque into their lives.

For Bhavani Golombek, it was the chance appearance of Cirque recruiters at her one-person performance piece in New York that got her the job. Golombek, who plays the role of Oceane, representing the element of water, "just happened to fit the part," says Vandenberg. "It's not just about being able to tumble around the stage; it's about really filling the costume you're wearing and becoming that character."

Because this is the Cirque's first visit to Baltimore, Vandenberg advises show-goers to "leave whatever preconceived ideas you have about the circus at the front door. ... `Circus' seems like such an old word for such a progressive show. ... This is something completely different."

Due to demand, nine extra performances of Dralion have been added to the schedule. Shows, at Harbor Point in Canton, are Tuesdays through Sundays from April 11 to May 4. Tuesday and Wednesday show times are 8 p.m, Thursday through Saturday times are 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets are $45-$65 for adults, $31.50-$45.50 for children, tax included. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Admission Network at 800-678-5440 or online at cirquedusoleil.com.

For more theater, classical music and dance events, see page 38.

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