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Monday, October 18, 2010


Opinion.

JEFFREY EDELSTEIN: Cirque is the Sinatra & Gatsby of circuses

Published: Sunday, October 17, 2010
If you think running off and joining the circus is just a life of travel, fun and merriment ... well, it kinda is.
“It’s not for everybody, but if you have a love for it, it’s great,” said Sean McKeown. “It’s really quite something.”
McKeown should know. He’s the artistic director for Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, “Dralion,” which is coming to Trenton’s Sun National Bank Center this Thursday through Sunday. McKeown, a native of Australia, spent his teen and early adult years as a performer of all stripes, and then left it behind to get into ... business administration.
But in 2001, realizing how much he missed the world of entertainment, he joined Cirque and has basically been touring the world since then. And his job allows him all the creative leeway you’d think an artistic director with Cirque du Soleil would get.
“We constantly try to reinvent ourselves,” McKeown said. “We basically ask ourselves, ‘What kind of crazy idea can we come up with?’ and go from there.”
He said it’s usually a two-year process, from idea to show, and for this show, the idea was a simple one: East meets West.
“We draw on thousands of years of Chinese acrobatic traditions and merge them with western traditions,” he said. “This show has some really beautiful aerial elements. We have this incredible troupe of Chinese acrobats ... and just wait to you see what they do with skipping.”
Yes. Skipping. That childhood activity is taken to new heights (literally) with this show.
For the record, I am not a circus guy. Never was really one for elephants holding the tails of elephants with their trunks holding the the tails of elephants with their trunks ... Even as a kid, I was not dazzled by blonde men sticking their heads in the mouths of tigers. So a few years back, when my wife informed me she wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil show, I balked. Didn’t want to go. Didn’t want to spend my good money on a circus.
Well, as with many so-called discussions with my wife, I lost, and we did spend our good money of these people.
I was knocked loopy. Blown away. There was jaw agaping going on. Why? Because calling Cirque du Soleil a circus is like calling “The Great Gatsby” a book, like calling Frank Sinatra a singer. It is, of course, a circus, but it’s not. It’s more like a detour into ... something else. Almost like visiting another planet.
“Our goal was to reinvent the circus,” McKeown said. “Putting together the circus elements of acrobatics, dance ... merging it with technology and our production values ...”
Well, whatever it is the curious minds behind Cirque du Soleil do, they got me. I’ve seen four different productions in three different cities, and look forward to adding to that number this week.
It’s a break from reality, this thing. A mental workout/vacation.
“It’s a great escape,” McKeown said.
Read Jeff Edelstein every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at jedelstein@trentonian.com, facebook.com/JeffreyEdelstein and twitter.com/jeffedelstein.

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