Circus Overdose

Aside from the insanity that is Christmas and trying to get by without taking too many pills to battle the pain it has been an interesting week for me as a fan of acrobatics and circus and naturally that includes the likes of Cirque du Soleil but also a lot of others, including the Monaco circus festival. I won’t get too much into that, since recently they had an upsurge in trained animal performances and I consider such stuff animal torture, which makes gives me bad vibes. Circus should not be about that in this day and age.

As previously announced I was in particular looking forward to a rerun of the Immortal behind the scenes/ making of documentary. It offered some interesting insights and allowed to at least speculate on what the acts we did not get might have looked like. The most obvious omission was the big tree like structure they obviously used for the first runs of the shows and that’s featured in the promotional materials. This also killed the special acts associated with it and simplified/ changed others like the graveyard scene for the Thriller and Ghosts albums songs (no coffins on the tree boughs, just flat on the stage). They also left out the Jackson 5 segment for whatever reason. That I could live with, but when I saw it, I really regretted the culling of the Can you feel it act with the timed aerial acrobatics as well as I just can’t stop loving you. Also they changed stuff with Billy Jean and several other things. Minor stuff, but it still leaves you with that nagging feeling that you might not have seen the show you paid for…

One of my criticisms I had with the Michael Jackson stuff was the all to strict adherence to the “canon”, if you will, and the idolization of the person getting in the way of a grander creative vision. As it turns out, this hasn’t happened for the first time and my skepticism back then was not too far off. After seeing Elvis in Las Vegas on arte TV, the Cirque‘s own documentary about the creation process and the rationale behind it, I now think I know why it failed so miserably after something like 2 years. The short version is that it just didn’t live up to what you expect from a Las Vegas show. While it may have had some interesting acts, for the most part it felt to me like one of those revival bands that by dressing up like their heroes at the same time turn them into a caricature. Wearing plastic-y wigs with Elvis‘ hair curl and over the top colorful clothes certainly didn’t help. It also felt a bit out of time. Yes, he was just as important as M.J. or The Beatles in the music world and the newly arranged songs actually sounded nice and reminded me of that, but the overall style just didn’t fit into today’s world.  Overall it felt empty and sterile and just not like the emotional and evocative experience you pay your 90 bucks for. For all intents and purposes, it just wasn’t a Cirque show and could have just as well been done by any varieté/ cabaret/ musical theater. I hope the show that replaced it, Zarkana, will fare much better. Using more fantastically themed storylines just suits them better.

Speaking of which, I had a pleasant surprise with Amaluna. Having bought the soundtrack only a month ago, I was actually surprised that they were already showing it on TV, be it just another of those documentaries that show how such stuff is conceptualized and then put together. No, it was even better than that: It was the real show! Well, a shorter version of it edited together to fit into 50 minutes. It’s still better than nothing and whenever now listening to the songs I can conjure up some matching imagery in my mind. Sadly, this also reminded me again that the chances of ever seeing this properly on DVD/ BluRay probably level off at zero, which is frustrating. Not so much because one can’t understand things like them being protective about their property and wanting people to fill the arenas, possible licensing obligations with casino owners in LV or even just trying to make an extra buck by selling it to TV stations first, it’s more that it always seems to be at the tip of your hand and then slips away. You know, whenever they say “This show will never be available on DVD” there’s no technical reason they couldn’t because they have taped them all and the material is sitting in some archive room, they just don’t want to or can’t work out the legal tangle. That is even more regrettable for shows that actually do not even run anymore like Zed or Zaia and nobody ever will have a chance to see them again unless they change their mind. *grmpf*

Later that evening they also showed La Nouba which thankfully is one of the few shows actually available for your little home cinema on DVD. Liama and Porte rank amongst my favorite songs, the clowns are funny and the overall flow of the show is just nice. I kept stuck with it on TV despite I of course have the boxed version and could watch it any time. But then again, the same happened with Mary & Max – have the BluRay, still watch it every time it runs on TV.

Concluding the Cirque material was the much discussed Lovesick documentary about the equally controversial Zumanity. Well, frankly I don’t know what the fuss is about. Some people are just prudes and if you’re having problems with people imitating copulation and orgasms then even Harry & Sally would be too much for you. On the other side much has been said about the artists being tricked into showing their private parts and so on, but well, then why even apply at the Cirque for such a show? It’s not that they would be any less naked in those Spandex suits on other shows, is it? Seeing a well-shaped bum and bulge certainly wets my appetite and from there to actually being naked it’s just a minor step in my view. It’s nothing to be shy about, especially with those well-defined bodies. Or is it just like at the gym, where the most attractive guys are always the ones that are extremely unsure about themselves and can’t make head and tails when you give them compliments? Mmh… But I digress. In any case, it gives once more interesting insights into the effort, cost and personal sacrifice associated with making a great show.

In between all the Cirque du Soleil shows they had another Canadian troupe called Cirque Éloize. I saw their show Nebbia 2 years ago (on arte TV again) and now they had Rain. I won’t say that it’s in any way worse than others, it’s just different and not necessarily my kind of thing. It tries to be too high concept and one of the things with many cirque nouveau shows is that they too much harken back at old times which makes them a very specific matter of personal taste. So in effect it’s really constructed like a 1920’s varieté show with a relatively shallow stage and costumes like back then. That may wonderfully work out when you watch it live and can enjoy its poetic qualities and interaction with the audience, it just doesn’t work on TV. It’s completely unsuited for that, anyway. Most of the costumes were blacks, greys and browns and the stage lighting was so subdued, you often could barely see a thing. Just not a pleasant viewing experience.

Finally, and bringing this rather long post to a close, they had some documentaries on other “circus” projects from around the world. Trust me, if all circus in Colombia involves ragga-muffin’ and rapping artists and weird dances from far too muscular hunks, I’m never gonna watch any of that live. Different tastes for different people, but sorry, that was just gross and not a pretty sight. Youth projects, on the other hand, are always nice. Many great circus artists (musicians, ballet dancers, [fill in cliché here]) actually started out in social projects, and well, someone has to provide the talent for future Cirque shows… ;-)

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