Review: Kurios

This past weekend, we checked out Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios at the United Center. I was super excited to see the show since I have enjoyed most of what I’ve seen from Cirque. I enjoyed Zarkana  in Vegas last year. With one major exception, namely the ill conceived Slapstick, their shows are always worth watching. The costumes are super fun, the sets are neat and they really do come up with some amazing visuals.

Kurios did not disappoint. It was a Steampunk theme to it. The subtitle was Cabinet of Curios so it had lots of strange creatures and jars filled with specimens. It did have a lovely bit where actors walked an invisible man on stage, with hat, shoes, and briefcase, which was simply lovely. There was a strange accordion man, a robotic woman, and a submarine man.

Mischief before the Show

The circus was the best part of the show, of course. I don’t want to give too much away but the best and most imaginative piece involved chair stacking. To give a hint, it was something out of Alice in Wonderland. It simply took our breathe away.

There was a really wondrous contortion act with three performers dancing on top of a giant brass colored hand (with a ring). I’m not a huge fan of contortion as a rule; I feel that most contortion acts are three poses and a lot of attitude. But this was beautiful and challenging. The three performers did amazing things with their bodies, sitting on themselves, basing their fellow performers on them in crazy poses. Very impressive.

We really enjoyed a wonderful trampoline act on a net with aquatic creatures. The net looked like the same netting that would be used for flying trapeze. Circus performers would bounce and spin in the air, or catch hanging clouds (yep, you read that right). They made it look so smooth and easy, which means that it is the result of 100 hours of practice (or more). One performer did an impressive job of acting like a fish out of water, wiggling in the air. So neat.

There was also a lovely strap act that started with Siamese twins. The twin part didn’t do a whole lot for me but the act itself was simply marvelous. There’s nothing quite like having someone soar in the air right above you! It gave the audience the feeling of flight!

The final act was also magnificent. It was a group acrobatics bit where the acrobats were flipping people up in the air and having them land on their arms. Or flip someone forward into someone else’s arms. There was so much that I had never seen before. My favorite bit was when they had a partial three high (there was a second base at the bottom – my fiance says it wasn’t a real three high), where they flipped a fourth person on top. So impressive!

There was also a puppet show, a improvised bicycle aerial act, and much more! That’s just a taste of Kurios. I would like to have had more circus and less atmospheric bits but it is worth checking out. I couldn’t help compare it with Cirque Mechanics from the Circus Festival. I think Cirque Mechanics was much more about circus while

That’s all for now!

Review: Cirque Italia

This weekend, we went out to Cicero, IL to see Cirque Italia. It’s a big top water circus. That meant that a series of fountains encircled the stage from below and above. Quite neat.  It was a fun night. However, it started off a little rough due to operational issues. The circus ended up starting 30 minutes late since they were trying to get everyone in. When we got there, there was an enormous line that barely moved.  Plus it was super confusing if you had will call tickets. It wasn’t marked and eventually an employee told us where to go. BUt 30 minutes is a bit much.

Once it started, the circus itself was splendid. The most amazing act was a hand-balancing act by the singer. Yes, the singing gentleman who opens the show ends up doing the most solid hand-balancing act I’ve ever seen. Now, it’s possible that when he went upside down, the sound people switched it to a recording but I’m not sure. And it was amazing. He made hand-balancing look like the easiest thing in the world. He also did some foot-juggling and an incredible jump while upside down!

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One of the most visually stunning acts was the mermaid straps. It started with a woman in a mermaid outfit carried on stage to the straps. She wrapped herself in the straps and began to soar in the air. Then that was when the water circus emerged for the first time. Quite a wonderful spectacle. Then she began a rather impressive straps act, made even more epic by the fact that she didn’t have full use of her legs! As she continued the act, she shed the skin and continued with the rest of the act. Very cool.

Mermaid Straps

There was also a hair act. A lady had her hair hooked up to the winch. She’d then soar in the air with various props. One of them was an umbrella. It made me happy beyond words to see her flying with an umbrella. She also spun hoops, played with a ribbon, and even did the splits in the air.

Hair and Hoops

Hair and Hoops

In the second half, there was a duo lyra act. The show seemed to like twins; Most performers came on in pairs wearing the same outfit and look. Two redhaired women began a lyra act as if they were two sisters fighting. It was graceful and occasionally wacky. At one point, one of them threw a shoe at her sister on the stage. Nice atmosphere.

Overall it was a fun big top circus. I’m not sure I loved it in the same way as UniverSOUL Circus in Washington Park, another traveling bigtop. But I’m glad I got to check it out.

That’s all for now!

Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival 2015: Part 3

So Sunday was the last day of the 2nd Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival. What a festival. Big congratulations to Dana Dugan, Matt Roben, and Shayna Swanson. I saw 10 shows (well, one twice) that were amazing and so incredibly different from one another.

The very last show I saw with the festival was Jaron Hollander and Slater Penney’s The Submarine Show. I laughed so much in the show that my face hurt. It was pure brilliance. I’m sorry that I saw it on the last day because I probably would have tried to see it again if I could have. The show is “acrobatic acapella foley mime duet” as the performers explained or miming with sound effects. They are so masterful with sound effects that I frequently forgot that they were making them. The sounds were so realistic and so well conceived. I’m frankly jealous.

The basic premise of the show is two men crash their submarine at the bottom of the ocean. They end up going on incredible adventures on a desert island where they face all sorts of dangers. With their sound effects and body movements, they do such an amazing job of evoking their world. It was everything I could have wanted and then some. It was a wonderful way to close out the Festival for me.

I can’t wait for next year!

That’s all for now!

Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival 2015: Part 2

Yesterday, I saw two more circus shows with the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival. They were magnificent along with all the shows. Today is the last day so get your tickets now!

Pedal Punk by Cirque Mechanics was incredibly imaginative and funny. It has a steampunk feel to it. The basic story takes place in a bicycle shop where people come in to get their bikes fixed or find new apparatuses. The bike owner, one of Chicago’s own, Jan Damm, is a bit of a mad scientist of bikes who comes up with some amazing (and terrifying) creations.

The show had a wonderful variety of circus acts. There was an amazing lyra act that took place on a lyra shaped like a penny-farthing bike, which was awesome. I didn’t know I needed that in my life but I do now. I’m happy this exists. There was contortion, pole, bicycle acrobatics, and so much more. There was even an incredible act with a trampoline, where performers bounced onto the trampoline, doing spins and turns in the air and grabbing onto the stage in seemingly impossible ways, like hanging by a single arm. I now regard trampoline acts with the same feeling that most reserve for flying acrobatics. Except I think that trampoline acts is actually cooler and more creative. And there was some amazing mischief with a square wheeled bike. That tickled me pink.

The set is worthy of note too. It contained all the rigging needed for the show. Actors just had to cycle to raise sections of the set or spin it. It was really fantastic that it was all (seemingly) mechanical. There were corresponding lights in the shape of bicycle wheels too that lit in time with the music. This show was just a marvel. It was so well thought out and pure joy to watch.

I can’t wait to see more shows by Cirque Mechanics.

The second show was the second night of the Bindlestiff Family Circus. Like the night before, the show featured eight acts from around the country. The first act “Aerial Animation” by Abigail Baird and Toni Cannon was truly inspired. It was the wonderful combination of aerial sling and hand to hand acrobatics with animation. We watched Abigail face a bear and get into all sorts of adventure. Her actions on the sling coincided perfectly with the animation. It was magnificent and I want to see more circus combined with animation.

There was an awesome slack-lining act by Ester de Monteflores. I don’t know a lot about slack line; it is different from tight wire. But this was awesome. She did the splits upside down on the rope, which is crazy. She also did various handbalancing positions on the rope. She made it seem like it was easy as breathing (which means it is anything but).

We were also treated to an act by the Institute of Jugglology. It started off as a juggling fight as the two performers grabbed balls from the other while juggling. Then they began juggling hoops and clubs at the same time with such ease. I’ve been told that it’s really hard to juggle different kinds of objects at the same time so this was impressive. But then it was soon revealed that the items had colored sand or dust in them so clouds of dust emanated from the jugglers as they performed. Very cool.. I can see why they won a major juggling award last year.

What a treat!

There’s still time to see more shows today! Check out the website: http://chicagocircusfest.com/

That’s all!

Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival 2015: Part 1

So I’ve been a little tardy with my thoughts on the second annual Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival. It’s a real gift to Chicago. You’ll be missing out if you don’t check it out. Shows run until Sunday night so go to chicagocircusfest.com and buy tickets now.

Here is a brief rundown of the shows I’ve seen over the past few days.

The festival started with the Magmanus Show by duo Magmanus. I actually saw them twice. I saw them once on Wednesday night and then again in a free show at Millennium Park on Thursday. The show was a wonderful combination of acrobatics, hand balancing, seesaw mischief, juggling, and dance. The duo are hilarious and sweet. It was neat to see the show in two places. it was really impressive to see them flying through the air on the seesaw with columns behind them in Wrigley Square. They performed three times, twice in Millennium Park.

Magmanus Show

On Thursday night I saw Peter Davison’s Tossed and Found at the Chopin Theater. What a magical show. The show included juggling, object manipulation, dance, and simply a lot of beauty. So many times the show surprised me and took my breath away. It’s a real treat. It harkens back to the age of silent movies. There’s one bit with hats that made me clap in sheer delight.

Following the show, we checked out Australian group Casus and their show Knee Deep at the Athenaeum. The show has incredible acrobatics, lyra, sling, hula hooping with eggs. And so much more. I had chills so many times during this show. What moved me was that these four performers were incredible strong and agile but they managed to convey such vulnerability in the show. What a beautiful exploration of the human condition!

Friday night began with Kate & Pasi’s Suhde at the Chopin. The title Suhde means relationship in Finnish. The show combines foot juggling and hand to hand acrobatics as a couple fight, love, and figure out how to relate to each other. It’s hilarious but with a lot of heart. Kate and Pasi fight over an armchair while she balances on his head. And it was incredible to watch foot juggling and hand juggling while she laid on his back or balanced on his head. Wow!

Then we saw Jamieson Lindenburg’s The Girlie Show at the Chopin. This show was tremendous. It combines burlesque, circus, and live music. I want more shows like this in the world. It was a raunchy joyful celebration of women and the amazing things they can do. The basic premise is that the show is a cabaret of freaks with a bearded lady, tattooed lady, and so much more. There was cyr wheel, tight wire, trapeze, anchor, pole, and wonderful burlesque. And most of the show was done in high heels! Hot damn! Here’s the interview I did with Jamieson Lindenburg about the show for the festival: http://chicagocircusfest.com/2015/05/11/interview-with-the-girlie-show/

Then we topped off the night with the Bindlestiff Family Circus’ Third Coast Cabaret. This show showcased individual acts from all over the US and the world. We were smitten with an object manipulation act by Robert James Webber (i think?). He twirled a broom around his body like it was the most natural thing in the world. So amazing! There was also a beautiful and fun duo trapeze act by Lauren Feldman & Megan Gendell. They managed to convey such joy as they undertook amazing and daring feats. I can’t wait to see what else they have in store when I go back to NY and hopefully see them.

So there’s still time to see these amazing shows. Seriously, go to one. No, go to them all.

I’ll see you there!

That’s all for now!

Interview with The Girlie Show: Big Top Burlesque

So dear Readers, I’m now doing a series of interviews for the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival that will take place June 17th to 21st. You should definitely check it out: http://chicagocircusfest.com/

Here is my first interview with the Girlie Show:

http://chicagocircusfest.com/2015/05/11/interview-with-the-girlie-show/

I’m going to scale back a little bit on this blog as I conduct these interviews in the next few weeks. However, I’ll update this blog along the way but probably not three times a week.

That’s all for now!

Day 13: France and England

The following morning, we went to see the Cirque d’Hiver, the Winter Circus, in Paris. This was our second time there. While I’ve been to Paris countless times before, I had never known about Cirque d’Hiver until my tight wire teacher told us about it over a year ago. Now, it’s on our Must-Dos in Paris (well, between October and March). We enjoyed the shows immensely.

This year, we were a little more with it. We were ready with our Euro coin to tip the usher who showed us to our seats. It’s an interesting custom. It’s not really an option to find your own seats. And apparently, they don’t get paid and rely on tips. So nothing like a compulsory tip. But this time we knew and had coins. Avoid the awkwardness!

Inside Cirque D'Hiver

Inside Cirque D’Hiver

The show starts with a toy-tie in. Parents can buy their children these light up whirly sword things. And to encourage sales, the Circus goes dark a few minutes for the show. Music starts playing and various acrobats/dancers who are wearing LED outfits come on and dance around. Children shake their light up sword tings around it in the dark theater. It’s actually a pretty neat visual…and a great way to guilt parents into buying them for their kids. You wouldn’t want your kids to miss out, no?

These quirks aside, the show was lovely. The name of the show was Géant, which means Giant. So there were lots of elephants, which is super. (They are my favorite animal to watch. So much personality!) The elephants were brought out for two acts. The first had them posing on platforms or on their hind legs. The second had acrobats doing tricks on their backs and even flipping from one elephant back to another. It was rather incredible. The most amazing trick involved a seesaw. One elephant stepped on the seesaw flinging a man into the air to land on top of another elephant. Really cool. Very dangerous, I imagine.

There was also a lovely tango inspired duo silks act. The tango must be a favorite at the circus since we saw at least two tango inspired acts last year too. The pair was able to perform these intricate drops, spins, and catches that I’d never seen done on a silk 30 feet up. And the final bit had the lady doing all sorts of drops and flinging sparkles all over.

There was a duo male pole act that was astonishing. The two men acted as if gravity was optional. They could walk their bodies up and down the poles, spin them in perfect synchronization. Incredible. There was a lovely dog act with very cute puppies. Of course, there is always one dog who acts like a clown. He never does whatever the trainer asks him! Also, it was kinda neat that the clown host was doing a Jerry Lewis impression. There was a fine flying trapeze act.

The only act that we were not fond of involved a model airplane. The handler had his plane do all sorts of loops, upside down and right side up, near miss dives, etc. There’s definitely skill, I’m not sure it was appropriate for the circus.

Anyway, it was good fun. Look forward to going again next year! Here’s a trailer for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poqJzVzDNpM

Later that afternoon, we went to one of my favorite museums in Paris: Musée de Cluny. It’s the museum of medieval art that is the home to the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. The museum is really a gem in Paris and there’s never a line. It’s built on some Roman 1st century baths too, which you can see a bit from the outside. Inside, it’s room after room of medieval marvels. One room has small scenes from stained glass windows where you can see the details up close. Another larger room has giant sculptures that were removed from Notre Dame during the Revolution. Another room is filled with silver reliquaries including a beautifully constructed metal flower. Another room has painted wooden shields. The museum must have recently undergone some renovation because it seems they’ve expanded the displays.

Notre Dame Heads

Notre Dame Heads

The piece de la resistance is the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. I’ve seen them dozens of times but they still take my breath away. There are six of them. 5 represent the five senses. The sixth is a bit unclear; it may represent love or divine love. Some interpret the tapestries as cautions against the five senses and argue that the sixth shows the only thing that matters; love of G-d. Interpretation aside, the detail in the tapestries is so magnificent. There are all sorts of flora and fauna throughout. The lady seems to be wearing a different dress in each. I highly recommend checking them out.

The museum had a lovely special exhibition about travel in the middle ages. It looked at the various elements of travel whether it was the maps and clocks of travel, to the religious trappings of travel. There was this enormous Vulgate Latin Bible on display that had to be the largest book I’d ever seen.

Stained glass birds

Stained glass birds

Metal Flower

Metal Flower

What a great trip! That’s all for this trip! Next, I’ll talk about somethings here in Chicago and then we’ll soon get to our great African safari!