by MIKE CHAIKEN
The evening was one where I was transported to a different time and a different place, in more ways than one.
Cirque du Soleil, the world-renowned circus troupe, has arrived in Connecticut for a residency that lasts until July 21.
For its presentation of the production “Luzia,” which opened for the press on June 19, Cirque du Soleil has migrated away from the theaters and arenas that dot Connecticut. Instead, Cirque du Soleil has set down stakes, literally, in a field at the crossroads between I-84 and I-91.
On that space, a giant big top has been established that harkens back to the days when circuses road into town and made their home wherever they laid their hat. For Hartford, which unfortunately has been saddled with memories of the circus fire of 1944, Cirque du Soleil’s residency was a vote of confidence for the state’s moribund capital.
Besides the throwback of the show’s location, “Luzia,” under the big top inside, took me back to an exotic, tropical setting of a Mexico long ago and far away.
And as the talented performers each took their turns before the audience, enveloped in elaborate costumes and placed in an imaginative set, I was transported to a fantasy world unlike any I had seen before.
There are many cirques that make their way through the state, and across the globe. But Cirque du Soleil always has been unique. Not only do audiences get a chance to see the most talented purveyors of traditional circus arts, but the creative minds behind the organization envelope these performances in a time and place that only exists in their imagination.
“Luzia” offers up a colorful world where giant hummingbirds dive expertly through hoops; chameleons climb sensually over poles; wandering minstrels with alligator heads walk the perimeter of the stage, and life-size butterflies run before giant horses.
It was all very surreal and dreamlike.
Over and over again, the performers caused me to exclaim, “Oh” and “wow” as they practiced their chosen circus skills.
And the skill quotient was upped considered by the gorgeous introduction of water into some stunts as well as tricky treadmills and apparatuses set upon a rotating stage.
There were many notable performances throughout the evening on June 19.
Stephen Brine on the straps, where he spun high above the stage, with water shedding off his body in beautiful patterns was a crowd favorite.
Cyr Wheel artists Rosa Tyyska and Nora Zoller, accompanied by trapeze artist Enya White, again performed as water fell from the roof of the big top, made for a beautiful moment.
The closing act of Swing to Swing with a small army of performers looked like great fun as the performers leapt and fell from a moving launch pad on to moving target.
Aleksei Goloborodko’s contortion routine sometimes made me cringe as the performer doubled himself over at times and tied himself up in all sorts of limb-bending directions. But, his act was oddly beautiful.
And kudos to Fool Koller, the Cirque du Soleil clown who stood at the center of the story of “Luzia,” and who provided many laughs as he helped tie the different acts together. His audience friendly routine with a whistle had me doubled-over… with laughter.
For one evening, I was taken to another time and space. And the only disappointment that I experienced was that I had to leave after the curtain call had broken.
Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia” is well worth a trip into Hartford. So, strap on your seatbelt and prepare to fly into the Mexico of old.
I give Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia,” four out of four stars.
Performances of “Luzia” by Cirque du Soleil are Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 1:30 and 5 p.m. through to July 21. Shows are under a tent at Market Street in Hartford.
For more information and tickets, go to CirqueduSoleil.com.
Scenes from the June 19 performance of ‘Luzia’ by Cirque du Soleil. (PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN)
Scenes from backstage at the June 19 performance of ‘Luzia’ by Cirque du Soleil. (PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN)