Cirque du Soliel’s Totem Toronto Premiere

Earlier this month I had theĀ privilegeĀ of attending a private preview of the latest Cirque du Soliel show, Totem, which is in Toronto until October 2. (Click here for a great photo gallery of the show on Toro Magazine).

As a child it was a dream of mine to take gymnastics classes, but for mostly financial reasons I was never able to. I remember attending my friends gymnastics practice and being so incredibly envious. I wanted nothing more than to balance on the beam and bounce into a flip off the boards. It looked like so much fun.

A Cirque show is gymnastics on a beautiful colorful acid trip.

Despite my love for this artform, the closest I had come to seeing Cirque du Soliel previously was the free outdoor show held during Luminato a couple summers ago, and as that was packed I didn’t get to see much Ā of anything.

This time, with a prime seat under the Grand Chapiteau in Port Lands, I got the full experience from start to finish, and it was incredible. I can’t even begin to accurately describe some of the things that took place in the show, as I know no description will do justice to what I actually witnessed. It is definitely a must see.

It began with an incredible performance on a structure that resembled a turtle shell, and from the top of the tent an acrobat in a sparkly silver leotardĀ descendedĀ like aĀ CaterpillarĀ turning into a butterfly, and would be a recurring character throughout the performance,Ā representingĀ life itself.

The first piece that truly blew my mind was the one pictured above, of five ladies balancing on unicycles with stacks of bowls they managed to flip onto their heads. Not justĀ theirĀ own heads butĀ each others, all in a row, in a variety of different ways, as fast as they could. It was spectacular and that scene is worth the price of admission alone. It was interesting to see that they are not the perfect machines we assume them to be but indeed humans performing these tricks. A task like this one is daunting and they didn’t always catch every single bowl, but the show still felt seamless as there were performers side stage ready to quickly hand props back to the girls.

The other big one that stood out for me was two girls standing on their heads flipping sparkly square pieces of fabric around and around so it looked like spinning tops. This task became more and more challenging as they went from individual chairs, to one girl balancing on the other girls leg, both balanced on one chair, flipping the squares around on all their limbs at once and even passing them back and forth! It was gorgeous to watch and hard to understand how one’s body would ever be capable of doing such a thing without breaking.

There were also more subtle pieces such as one that portrayed the beginnings of romantic love that is so vital in evolution, done on a trapeze. It was a rare scene that went beyond the physical spectacle and combined the emotional in a way that worked. IĀ believedĀ this couple was into each other, it was not just impressive acrobatics but good acting pulled off in a situation that is notĀ conduciveĀ to emoting in a believable way.

Although most of the show was spectacular, there were a couple low points. I wasn’t a huge fan of the boat scene – it was obviously aimed at the kids in the audience and was incredibly tame compared to everything happening in the rest of the show – but that is a small complaint considering how breathtaking everything else was.

Totem’s overall theme is evolution, from the monkeys toĀ Darwin, atoms, man walking on the moon, love, the native theme, and so on. It combines all these elements we all know so well in the most entertaining fashion ever, to tell the story of man. If you are thinking about seeing it but have yet to get your tickets, you shouldn’t hesitate, this is one Cirque show you do not want to miss. Incredible.

Update: There are now tickets available for 40% off, get them here!