Dralion: Cirque du Soleil’s assault on the senses

Cirque du So-LAME! That’s right. I said it. We’ve got better options locally.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to watch Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion.1 The right way to watch is with an open heart, a set of experiences that’s low on artistic performance memories, and a slight hearing problem. The wrong way to watch Dralion is during the summer Olympics.

The legendary Canadian acrobats of Cirque perform physical feats that, frankly, are easily topped every night by the athletes we watched the past two weeks. That’s not their fault, they’re not trying to win gold medals. And, truly, the tumbling, aerial hooping, and trampolining that happened at the Coliseum this weekend was all very impressive. I certainly can’t do it. But for the money (and it’s quite a bit), I want to see something phenomenal.

In Dralion’s case, any phenoms are obscured by the retina-melting costume colors, overly scattered choreography, and music…oh, the music! Imagine if Trans-Siberian Orchestra abandoned Christmas songs for some vaguely world-type stuff and then played it at full volume without using any dynamics whatsoever–that would come close to the rockin’ jams peppered by tribal grunts that these folks twirled around to. I was actually surprised to figure out that it was live music, as it sounded so much like a tinny yet in-yo-face recording.

At the first of these trumpeting blasts into colorful oblivion, Little Buddha (Charli K) appears, along with the four elements: Fire (Dante Adela), Air (Amanda Orozco), Earth (Dioman Gbou), and Water (Tara Catherine Pandeya).2 Buddha carries a glowing hourglass, and the elements dance with fixed smiles on their faces in costumes that seem to represent Africa, India, China, and…maybe France? It’s great to have a theme. You can’t put on a show without it. But this theme quickly unraveled into seemingly unconnected cameo appearances by each of the four elements.

I know, it seems crazy to nitpick things like costumes and music when these guys can form a human pyramid AND THEN JUMP ROPE, but those stagecraftian elements are so busy and overwhelming that it’s hard to see past them to the guy doing a handspring through a hoop.

Beyond the hoops and the juggling, a little magnificence shone through: the “Diabolo” ladies (Guo Yuze, Zhang Jianan, Fulli Yang, Zhi Yanan, Zheng Miaomiao, and Li Zhaoyan) with their spools-on-sticks thing and the clown fellas were wonderfully entertaining. The clowns (not the scary, red-nosed kind, but the more subtle, Italian-speaking tuxedo kind) did some audience participation stuff that was truly hilarious and unexpected. Possibly because they were the least gaudy of the whole deal.

So Dralion’s fine if you’ve got money to burn, but it’s nowhere near the infectious glee and painstakingly practiced showmanship of Kodo or the graceful athleticism of the Richmond Ballet. And it certainly doesn’t touch Olympic gymnastics, diving, or, hey, let’s be honest, even synchronized swimming.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. Oh yeah! That’s a dragon and a lion HYBRID, m’fers! East meets west! 
  2. I’m not kidding when I say that each one of their getups looked like it was copied from a child’s Halloween costume. 
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  1. When? Where? How much?

  2. Lesley Weatherford on said:

    Agreed with whole heartedly. I have seen the spectacular production at Disney World and this paled so by comaparison. My friend, in tow, had never seen any Cirque show, not even on TV, and he was highly impressed. But I kept thinking Olympics as well, in fact, I have a FB ‘Friend” from Tidewater that could keep up with, if not out do, the woman doing acrobatics in a hoop and also I have folks I know that work those silks with more harrowing moves than what I saw and I mean regular folks, not performers. It was too much money. I get more glitz, action and pyro at a Motley Crue show than what this had to offer.

  3. Also, if you missed it you can check out Cirque Chinois (10/18) and PSY (03/22-03/24)coming up at the Modlin Center for the Arts! Cirque is pretty full at the moment but more tickets will open up soon. Both are under $40! modlin.richmond.edu

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