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culture

Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios Creates Steampunk Dream

When you walk into the Grand Chapiteau venue, you're entering a bizarro steampunk contortionist dream.

Cirque du Soleil is magical. Across from T&T Supermarket on Cherry Street, the pop-up striped tent makes Polson Pier look otherworldly—it’s a better location than any Las Vegas hotel or Orlando strip mall. And when you walk into the Grand Chapiteau venue, you’re welcomed into a bizarro steampunk contortionist fantasy.

Kicking off its North American tour in Toronto and running until October 26, Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities is Cirque du Soleil’s latest show. The official plot premise is slight and not particularly engaging: there’s a Seeker in his own imaginary world called Curiosistan creating inventions with the aid of robots that smell like leather. It’s difficult to keep track of the narrative layered over all the spinning, jumping, flying, and balancing. No one had any idea what was going on—but everyone loved the show.

The audience was hooked by Stéphane Roy’s retro-future set design. It gave the show a familiar throwback circus atmosphere that was far more effective than Cirque du Soleil’s previous, overblown Windows 95 screensaver aesthetic. Squished together in seats close to the stage, spectators became part of the show—drawn into the mechanical-obsessed alternative reality as materials such as rope, metal, and canvas took the place of screens and light projections.

It was obvious the audience had succumbed to the charms of the steampunk entertainment when it sat transfixed for 10 minutes by a yo-yo performance. That’s it. That’s all there was—a yo-yo. After the yo-yo, there was a comedy skit that involved a mime’s fingers projected onto a hot air balloon. Although those acts were missing the usual Cirque du Soleil flare, it was nice to look around and see everyone amazed by twirling thread and fingers.

The rest of the acts were brilliant—complex feats that appeared effortless. Kurios was directed by Michel Laprise, a former talent scout and special events designer for the troupe. He’s a true insider who has used his experience to develop acts featuring the cast’s distinctive skills. Roman and Vitali Tomanov, for example, are brothers who bring flawless timing to their “Siamese twins” aerial performance. The entire routine is elegant and graceful, despite being incredibly difficult.

And every time you think an acrobat might fall, that’s when the show has succeeded in pulling off a sleight of hand. These are all expert performers who wobble to make you lean in closer. So go ahead and get sucked in. It’s the best time you’ll have just watching people move their bodies—no lasers, screens, or holograms involved.

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