Maybe it was just a formality, but Michael Smith, senior artistic director for Cirque du Soleil’s "Alegria," was in town a couple of weeks ago to do some reconnaissance, so to speak, for the show’s October run at the Blaisdell Arena.
It’s a formality in a sense because when the company came here in November 2008 to present "Saltimbanco," an estimated 35,000 patrons enjoyed the internationally renowned company’s first touring show.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL PRESENTS ‘ALEGRIA’
Where: Blaisdell Arena
When: Oct. 15-31
Cost: $40 to $99 general, $32 to $80 children 2 to 12
Info: 591-2211 or www.cirquedusoleil.com
Come October, the Blaisdell Arena will once again be the temporary home of the Cirque’s arena version of its first signature show, created in 1994.
Spanish for jubilation, "Alegria," like "Saltimbanco," was originally a big-top show and the first to combine theater and circus. After the touring success of "Saltimbanco," "Alegria" was revised for arena play last year.
Called "a baroque ode to the energy, grace and power of youth," the show depicts the evolution from monarchies to democracies, filled with clowns and minstrels.
And, of course, there are the thrilling acrobatics.
Smith was here to make sure the Blaisdell could safely accommodate, in particular, an acrobatic set that uses an aerial high bar.
"The bar is anchored through wiring 8 meters high with a pendulum attached," he said. "It takes incredible balance to do, and even though I’ve been with the show for three years now, I don’t see how the acrobats are able to do it. Our other main group works on the Russian bar, where they’re thrown into the air by two pole vaults that are strapped together with tape and supported at either end, and the acrobats are then expected to land on a 4-inch-wide bar."
Smith promises that "Alegria" will be a different show from the one Honolulu audiences experienced with "Saltimbanco" two years ago.
"All the acts are different, featuring all different disciplines. ‘Saltimbanco’ is the nearest to a traditional circus Cirque du Soleil presented. ‘Alegria’ steps away from that and more toward theater. It was Cirque’s first leap into really using that form of entertainment. ‘Saltimbanco’ had more of an urban feel, and it’s safe to call ‘Alegria’ more fanciful."
One of the acts familiar to local audiences will be a fire-knife dance, so it should be no surprise that a Hawaii-born dancer, Micah Naruo, will have the honor of performing in his home state. Naruo is just one of the 55 artists of 15 nationalities in "Alegria," and he is expected to come home in late September to spend some time with his family before the show’s opening.
"He’s so pumped and proud that he’ll be performing here," Smith said.
"Because ‘Alegria’ is the signature show of Cirque du Soleil, we have no interest in doing a watered-down version of the original. You get the whole show. Prior to every tour-stop opening, we rest for two weeks, and I’m sure everyone in the show will want to come to Hawaii early for that duration."
After doing shows in Dubai in April, Smith said the entire cast was brought back to Cirque’s home base in Montreal to meet with its creators for some revisions. "Because the audience is seated farther away, we had to make the choreography bigger. The show also had to be completely relit, and because the rig puts out stronger lighting, we also had to redesign the colors on our costuming to stand out more. It’s that philosophy of attention to detail that makes the difference."
Like "Saltimbanco" before, this next visit by Cirque du Soleil reaffirms its origins – an inspiration of creator Guy Liberte as he sat on a beach in Hawaii many years ago.
"It’s all about sharing happiness and joy," Smith said, "and helping people escape into the wildest imaginations possible."