by Ed Uy & Euden Valdez
Like the bright and cinematic spotlights that illuminated its colorful stage, Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco was like a ray of sunshine that erased the gloom of an otherwise dreary week for flood-ravaged Manila.
As it opened at the Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday night, even the torrential rains that pounded the city for the past few days, surprisingly let up, as if to give everyone a chance to enjoy this unique and vibrant performance.
Magandang Gabi Manila!
The first thing to note about a Cirque show is that it always begins on time, so while many were still making their way to their seats, a group of performers have already begun interacting with the audience.
|Eddy’s antics never fail to amuse|
Those who trooped to the Arena, despite the fact that most of the city was still submerged in floods—were immediately rewarded as the Saltimbanco “host” greeted everybody and shouted “Magandang gabi Manila!”
She continued to surprise the audience by delivering her entire spiel in Filipino, giving out instructions while “the Dreamer” acted out the potential dangers of flash photography to the performers.
The air was filled with awe and excitement as the white veil slowly revealed the stage and the first performers came out in their colorful outfits to begin the first act.
|Awe-mazing Aerial Straps|
Contortions, comedy and Chinese Poles
The first half of the show occurred mostly on stage, like a technicolor dream sequence, with the plump Ringmaster and the Dreamer and the setting up the stage for the initial act called Adagio.
Inspired by a discipline called “acrosport,” the trio of Dmitry Shvidki, Corey Hartung and Valeria Chyzhevska, showed amazing flexibility and grace as their bodies seemingly melded together to create moving human sculptures.
A group of colorful chameleon-like performers then began slithering across the stage, transitioning into the Chinese Poles.
No less than 15 acrobats performed several jaw-dropping acrobatic routines on the four poles. Several times during their performance, these lizard-like acrobats would jump, switch and free fall– head first– down the 24 feet high poles to the applause of the audience.
While the Chinese poles was the highlight of the first act, it was Eddy that got the most applause. As the ccomedian or clown of the show, Martin Pons portrayed a playful young boy in a red hat, bow tie, striped shorts and suspenders. Symbolic of our own inner child, Eddy’s mimes and almost cartoon-like antics delighted the crowd. It may be hard to believe, but never has a man swallowing an imaginary ball and drowning in a bathroom generated so many laughs.
Ruslan Kahkimullin’s, Aerial straps then took the audience to a higher level as he flew across and ascended high above the stage as if to give the audience a peek into the aerial acrobatics that follow.
Aiunsanaa Bataa, then brought out her canes for the next act. A stark contrast to the laughter and chatter generated by the previous performers, the audience suddenly became very quiet to the point of seemingly baffled as she began to balance herself on the canes and contorting her body in ways you’d never thought possible. Only after she safely did a bow did the audience erupt in applause.
Though already a common act, Terry Valasquez had plenty of balls to showcase his astounding juggling skills. Exhibiting outstanding deftness, Velasquez made it interesting as he juggled and dribbled an increasing number of balls (a total of eight) atop a staircase while playing to the beat of the music.
Music was also the theme of the next act as the duo of Adriana Pegueroles and Eduardo Rodriguez created their own beats alternating between the Drum Tao Taiko and their “boleadoras”– a simple percussion instrument made of a weight attached to the end of a cord– as they twirled, swung and stomped– culminating in an exciting duel of rhythmic proportions.
Dangerous flips and aerial ballet
After a brief intermission, it was time for the live band, composed of Daniel Immel, Serge Maheux, Philippe Poirier, Alejandro Romero Lopez and Fil-Canadian Adrian Andres to showcase their musical skills.
In an interview with Andres prior to the show, he said he was very excited to finally perform in the country and rediscover his Filipino roots. “I’ve met a lot of Filipinos all over the world and to finally perform here and meet some of my relatives is going to be an awesome experience,” he said.
|Balancing on Canes|
The house troupe then brought out a large swing for what is probably the most dangerous part of the show—The Russian Swing. Here the performers called Barouques were tossed high up in the air as they do flips and somersaults before landing on the ground, or top of a balance beam, or on top the of a human totem pole.
Another dangerous act followed as Sarah Heffner, perched high on a trapeze performed a stunning aerial ballet that was as graceful as it was exhilarating.
To help the audience get back on their feet, Eddy again came out on stage, this time looking for a “willing” victim to play with him for the next act. Without spoiling anything lets just say it’s even more hilarious than his earlier performance—even if it ends in a supposedly bloody cowboy duel.
A collective shriek echoed through the air as Constantin Ciobotaru and Dan Florin Tazlauanu, removed their vests to show off their ripped bodies and showcase their tremendous power and unwavering sense of balance, as the two men pushed their bodies to the limits of human strength in the Hand to Hand routine.
The “Bungee” finale was composed four performers who swung, dropped and flew right up the into the air in ways that defy gravity. Like magnificent birds or angels soaring through the sky playing to an opera theme, it was a fitting ending to the almost two and a half hour show.
What’s notable about Saltimbanco was how it utilized the stage from top to bottom and made the Arena feel quite intimate as if they were still performing inside a much smaller tent.
As we have come to expect from a Cirque performance, Saltimbanco was not only an extravagance of sound and color but an amazing display of human talent and capability.
|The cast takes a bow|
The show may be a bit of a slow burner in the first half, but it gradually builds up to a thrilling second act that will keep you on the edge of your seats– so don’t deprive yourself from cheering and shouting to show your appreciation.
Saltimbanco deserves a standing ovation not only for pushing through with the show despite the floods and stormy weather, but also for giving the audience something to smile about—something we badly needed after all those gloomy days.
Saltimbanco runs until August 19, 2012 at Mall Of Asia Arena in Pasay City. Tickets are available at www.cirquedusoleil.com/saltimbanco, www.hoopla.ph or www.smtickets.com or by calling 320-1111 or 470-2222. Tickets can also be purchased at the Manila Hotel concierge and at the box office. For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.