By Liezel van der Westhuizen
Last December I took a trip to a city called Topeka which is the capital city of the U.S. state of Kansas. The reason for this 20 hour journey from South Africa was to spend time with the troop from Cirque du Soleil Dralion. Cirque du Soleil, which in English means Circus of the Sun, is a Canadian entertainment company, self-described as a “dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment.” Their latest production ‘Dralion’ is their 12th touring production.
The show’s name is derived from its two emblematic creatures: the dragon, symbolizing the East, and the lion, symbolizing the West. Dralion is the four elements that govern the natural order taking on a human form.
Thus embodied, each element is represented by its own evocative colour: air is blue; water is green; fire is red; earth is ochre. In the world of Dralion, cultures blend, Man and Nature are one, and balance is achieved. I’d only ever watch Cirque du Soleil on television and had no idea what was in store for me.
I was blown away when I arrived at the area in Topeka to see an 18m backdrop that is 7.9m in height and covered in perforated aluminium tiles, giving it the appearance of medieval armour or a futuristic Chinese temple. Sitting atop the structure are six giant claws which allow performers to climb the wall and suspend in mid-air.
Above the stage itself are three large concentric aluminium rings. The first is utilized as a catwalk; the second is used to support acrobatic equipment; and the third is used by performers to move up and down and suspend in the air. Not only did I meet the crews back stage, I even took a tour under the stage to see what goes on behind and under the scenes.
Despite being tired and suffering from jet lag after a long flight from South Africa, I stayed to watch the opening night show that evening. In typical Cirque fashion, the audience is treated to a pre-show of clowns – this time three of them – amusing the crowd with their silly antics that often include getting audience members involved.
The show is a brilliant mix of Aerialists, trampolinists, jugglers, pole-balancers and contortionist kept audience’s jaws dropped during the two and a half hour show. And I stayed awake the entire time. Get ready for a sensory overload as you watch the incredibly talented acrobats make the toughest moves look easy.
‘Dralion’ is hands down the best family entertainment option in Cape Town this month.
* ‘Dralion’ is showing at the Grand Arena, GrandWest until Sunday March 17. Tickets are available from bigconcerts.co.za and Computicket.
Visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/dralion for more information.