FLOATING FREE: Monarch butterflies figure heavily into the plot of 'Luzia' by Cirque du Soleil.
Featuring towering feats of strength, high-flying aerialists, expert jugglers, eye-popping puppets and one truly twisted contortionist, Cirque du Soleil’s latest touring production, Luzia, earned riotous applause during its lively preview night in San Jose.
A portmanteau of the Spanish words for sun and rain—“luz” and “lluvia”—Luzia is a colorful homage to Mexico.
One of the first things you notice is a massive metallic disc hanging at the back of the stage. Throughout the performance it shone red, gold and pale silver—a reminder of the hot sun and cool moon which wheel daily over the arid plains and muggy jungles of our neighbor to the south.
In these politically charged times, Luzia also serves as a reminder that we all turn beneath the same star, and that we all yearn for the same basic things:
Like a day at the beach—overseen by a strapping, mustachioed lifeguard, who just so happens to use his guard chair like a gymnast would use a pair of rings. Working his way up the perpetually growing structure, our hero in this seaside scene balanced on one hand, did the splits and pulled an iron cross.
Then there was the jungle pool, featuring a Tarzan-esque fellow, who twirled his way up and down a vine, as a massive puppet panther looked on.
And a spirited game of futbol, which served to highlight the cast’s two best ball handlers, as they balanced soccer balls on their head, flipped them around with their feet and even incorporated a touch of breakdancing.
A massive steely stallion—operated by three puppeteers—appeared in the first and second act, galloping over a bright, sunlit plain. You could almost see the dust kicking up around the sagebrush.
And the skies underneath the big tent frequently opened up, showering the circular stage with sheets of rain. Upon closer examination, it was revealed that the water fell in hundreds of individual streams, each dispensed with precision so that the deluge might cascade in patterns, like hearts and diamonds.
As always with a Cirque du Soleil performance, the set design, costuming and music are an integral part of this show. A live band expertly fused Latin rhythms and textures with jazz, electronica and strains of world music. Giant walking cacti and humongous dancing insects—and monarch butterflies, which served as a reminder of the yearly migration these colorful creatures make—floating graceful and free across the Rio Grande.