P365 – Day 166 Saltimbanco (16/06/2011)

Disclaimer 1: I’m writing this post before I read any reviews of or stories about Saltimbanco. I don’t want to be influenced by what anyone else has said or to think that that if I have a different perspective or understanding of it, that my view is ‘wrong’.

Disclaimer 2: This is the first time I’ve seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, so I had very little idea of what to expect.
When the tour of Cirque du Soleil’s show Saltimbanco was announced last year, my mother said she wanted to go and offered to buy me a ticket too. Well how could I refuse that? I didn’t know a lot about Cirque du Soleil other than it was a world-famous performance spectacular, filled with amazing physical acrobatic acts.
What I hadn’t known is that the performances are much much more than a circus without animals, which is kind of what I vaguely had in mind. Although, having said that, I was fairly sure that it would be somewhat more spectacular than the circuses that used to (do they still?) travel around the country and set up their Big Top in a long list of small towns.
Now that we’ve established that I am, in fact, quite uncultured and know next to nothing about the performing arts*, we can move on.
The premise of Saltimbanco (from the Italian ‘saltare in banco’ – to jump on a bench) is a show ‘set inside an imaginary metropolis of colourful inhabitants’. The website describes it like this:

Saltimbanco explores the urban experience in all its myriad forms: the people who live there, their idiosyncrasies and likenesses, families and groups, the hustle and bustle of the street and the towering heights of skyscrapers. Between whirlwind and lull, prowess and poetry, Saltimbanco takes spectators on an allegorical and acrobatic journey into the heart of the city.

Saltimbanco is a Cirque du Soleil signature show inspired by the urban fabric of the metropolis and its colourful inhabitants. Decidedly baroque in its visual vocabulary, the show’s eclectic cast of characters draws spectators into a fanciful, dreamlike world, an imaginary city where diversity is a cause for hope.

One of the banners for the show at the venue
The show was amazing!
I don’t know if it was because of the description of it as being set inside this metropolis that triggered some associations for me, or if I would have come to that view on my own, but the overall feel of the show for me was distinctly city-like. But not the city that we see every day – it conjured up visions of the movie Delicatessen (which I haven’t seen for years, so I could be completely off track), where the characters were from the underworld, rather than the mainstream, very quirky and quite dark (but also very humorous).
Despite the glorious brightness of the colours, the enthusiasm and fast pace of the show, I still had the feeling of there being a dark underside to life within this city that wasn’t very far beneath the surface.
It was a visual delight. The costumes and colours were simply stunning. Totally eye-catching to the point that sometimes I didn’t know where to look.
The music was absolutely wonderful. I’d describe much of it as tribal, with what I imagine would be African influences. Some of it reminded me of parts of Mike Oldfield’s The Millenium Bell.
And the performances were magical. 
From the twisty triple-bodied Adagio to the slipping and sliding Chinese Poles artists, the Juggler, the artistic cyclist, and the act that completely blew me away, the Duo Trapeze – everything you’d expect to see in a circus and more. Even the most amazing drums and instruments called boleadoras.
I don’t have the words to describe it. The performances were sensational, sensual, powerful, strong, delicate, breathtaking, precise . . .
Just watching these bodies do things I didn’t know bodies could do – there were times I was so enthralled by the show that I didn’t even realise the audience was applauding.
I will admit that I did find some of the theatrical and dance performances didn’t capture my attention as much as the acrobatic ones did, and I was craving more daring and spectacle. But it was all part of the show, and there were some very funny moments, including some hilarious audience participation.
It was a sensational night that will live for a long time in my memory.
Thanks so much to Mum for taking me with you.
* Compared to absolutely nothing about the visual arts.
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