TOTEM Polishes What Cirque du Soleil Does Best

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Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, TOTEM, is a journey into the evolution of mankind. With typical Cirque flair, the show transports you to a world of mystical acrobatics and circus arts.

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On an island evoking the shape of a giant turtle, TOTEM traces humankind’s incredible journey – from our original amphibian state to our ultimate quest for flight. Along the way, it also explores our dreams and infinite potential, and the ties that bind us both to our collective animal origins and to the species that share the planet with us.

Alternating between primitive and modern myths, and peppered with aboriginal stories of creation, TOTEM echoes and explores the evolutionary process of species, our ongoing search for balance, and the curiosity that propels us ever further, faster, and higher…

But you’ve never seen the circus like this before. What struck me first about TOTEM was how minutely put together everything was. Every single transition, every single moment, had been meticulously thought out. I think this is what truly defines Cirque performances and sets them apart from the rest. The flawless execution leads you to cast aside your doubts and become fully immersed in the production’s fascinating mix of performers, costumes, and live music.

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Other thoughts about the show? There were highs and lows. By Cirque’s own admission, they’re presenting 19 different shows this year, both touring and resident. Having been around for so long (established in 1984 with 73 employees, now over 4000 worldwide), sooner or later you get caught up in topping your own work.

The confines of ‘the circus’ is a challenging mix of new and nostalgic, and it did seem from time to time that Cirque was treading on familiar waters. I also didn’t particularly identify with the musical score, which seemed to be a mix of First Nations beats and… electronica? The storyline was more oblique than some of Cirque’s past shows, but didn’t really seem to have any payoff.

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TL;DR

Still, for all of its familiarity, there’s a certain thrill in seeing a Cirque show. TOTEM was no exception. Go for the thrill of seeing the human body do incredible things. Go for the gorgeous set design and costumes. Just don’t try to think too hard about storyline and characters.

Cirque du Soleil presents TOTEM until July 6 at Concord Pacific Palace. More information here.

Photo Credit: OSA Images

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Cecilia Lu Arts & Culture Editor at Vancity Buzz. Cecilia a sucker for great indie theatre and anything really geeky. Lethal drink of choice: single malt whisky. cecilia[at]vancitybuzz[dot]com
@CeciliaLu

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