Monday, October 21, 2013

Cirque Du Soleil's TOTEM: The Best Cirque Yet

On Wednesday night we were treated to an evening at Cirque du Soleil's newest show, TOTEM. We've been to quite a few Cirque productions over the years and I know I say this every time, but this version of their show was even better than the last one. And yes, I'll probably say that the next one is better than this one. Because unlike that milk in your refrigerator or those Die Hard movies, Cirque du Soleil really does get better with age.

TOTEM loosely tells the story of evolution, but don't expect just cave dwellers and ancient rituals – in a way this version of the show felt like the most contemporary yet. From the wry references to man's reliance on technology to the parody of beach culture, my teens related to this show more than before. Of course, it had nothing to do with the abundance of six-pack abs in those beach scenes.

The show felt more intimate, too. I'm not sure if it was actually a smaller stage and arena, but it was easier to see all of the performers and to follow along with all of the stories they tell using just their bodies, facial expressions and gestures. One of our favorites was a scene involving a fisherman on a lake, and it's hard to imagine being able to pick up on all of the subtle visual humor in a larger venue. (Another bonus: It was a much quicker trip to the top of the stairs to exit the arena to get to the bathrooms.)

Here's a short preview of the show. It will blow your mind, as it should:

After the show we got a huge treat – we were able to go backstage, talk to a few of the performers and see the inside workings of a Cirque production. The artists talked about their various backgrounds (they come from all over the world) how they came to join the Cirque family and their daily routines while traveling with the show. When they got to the part about having an on-site chef that kept them fed throughout the day and filled up with snacks, we were all ready to sign up.

Being backstage gave us such a broader appreciation for what a huge undertaking the show is, and how disciplined the performers are. Their costuming area is not that big, considering the huge amount of activity that must take place there. I imagine it's what I feel like having to share a bathroom with my teenage daughter, only fifty times more crowded.

I wish that everyone, especially kids, could have the chance to see a Cirque show, and especially TOTEM. The artistry and skill are awe-inspiring, and the shows have such a magical and inspirational effect on audiences – it gives you the desire to create art, to look beyond your own environment and to seek out and pursue your dreams.  Does it make one want to "run off and join the circus"? I think it might – especially if that circus comes with an on-site chef and endless snacks.

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Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM runs for a limited engagement through November 10, 2013 at the Port of Los Angeles – San Pedro, first stop of the production’s 2013-2014 Southern California tour. Following this limited engagement, TOTEM will be visiting Irvine (opens November 21, 2013 at the Orange County Great Park Festival Site) and Santa Monica (opens January 17, 2013 at the Santa Monica Pier). Tickets for all TOTEM performances are now available online at

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