Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

I have seen the platonic ideal of hula hooping...

Tonight's date was a long-standing one: msmemory's birthday present was a couple of tickets to Cirque du Soleil's show Alegria, playing at the Agganis Arena at BU. Some thoughts...

The bad news first. Most of the Cirque shows we've seen have been in their big top, and I take it as an article of faith that there are no bad seats at a Cirque show -- the big top is small, and the seats are highly raked, so everything works. Not so much at the Agganis, though. We picked up fairly good-looking seats in the "orchestra" section, nearish to the front. But they turned out to be all on a level, slightly below the stage. And the two gentlemen in front of us, while not *extremely* tall, were plenty tall enough. So we couldn't see a damned thing unless it was at least five feet in the air (which, this being Cirque, much of it was), and the evening was starting to sour.

Fortunately, msmemory is ever-observant, and noticed that the seats *way* up at the top of the arena were all empty; she got an okay from the security folks, and we moved ourselves up to the tippy-top back row. Not nearly as close, but a nice clear view. And after intermission, a huge group in front of us all went home, so we moved about six rows closer in, to seats that were actually pretty decent. So we got to see most of the show from a good vantage point.

It's a good show, with lots of highlights -- not the best I've seen (Kooza is my favorite to date), but probably above average. The tumblers were exceptionally cool, even by Cirque standards, and the fabric (really bungee) dancer produced my usual reaction of, "that looks like so much *fun*!" (I don't have remotely the upper-body strength for it, but unlike most of Cirque's acts it doesn't scare the snot out of me: there's something about the grip used in fabric work that I have an innate faith in.) Even the clowns were quite funny. (Something you can't rely on in Cirque shows: sometimes they are simply annoying.) But for my money, the show was stolen by the rhythmic gymnast, specifically her hooping act.

It wasn't even the impossibility of it that got me. Of course, this being Cirque, it *was* impossible, or at least very improbable: managing six hoops with full individual control of each, one of them spinning around her foot while it is being held over her head, is really quite impressive. But what really grabbed me was the *artistry*, and particularly the magnificent economy of movement she used.

Each hoop would start on the ground. She would flick it up with a toe, twitch her ankle slightly, and it would be spinning. With just tiny, elegant motions, she would not only keep it going but move it up and down her body perfectly. For the most part, she didn't so much shimmy as *vibrate*, spinning the hoops with motions so small they were sometimes hard to see. The only times she had to really undulate was when she was breaking the rhythm: for example, when she had three hoops moving in perfect synchrony at her waist, she would *twist* oddly, so that one suddenly spun upwards and another down, and suddenly all three were moving in completely different rhythms at different points around her body.

The wonderful thing about Cirque is that, at its best, it takes circus acts and turns them into capital-A Art. I've seen them do it for contortion, fabric work, tumbling, even tightrope walking. This was hooping as a dance form, and it was just mesmerising...
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