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Cirque du Soleil: Ovo

Buggin' Out

Cirque du Soleil: Ovo
Incredible, Though Not Edible
By Ann Taylor

Now with twenty shows worldwide, Cirque du Soleil is an undisputed powerhouse in the entertainment industry. Yet, despite its commercial popularity, it seems that it has managed to maintain the artistic integrity of its work, presenting beautifully choreographed performances with unique costumes, sets, and music, and some of the most amazing circus talent available.

A close view of the microscopic world of bugs, Ovo plays on the antics and abilities of numerous species in order to present mind-boggling and awe-inspiring acrobatic feats, fantastic costumes, and a rather humorous plot. A stranger has appeared in the midst of the bugs community, bearing an enormous egg. Puffing and wheezing, this odd figure hauls his great treasure onstage only to have it stolen away. He continues to appear throughout the performance, looking not only for his beloved egg, but also for love.

Although the loose plot seems mainly to serve as a time-filler between acts, it definitely provides some comic relief between the staggering physical feats. However, between romantic interludes, bug spray abuse, and wonderfully silly slapstick occurs the real meat of the performance.

Cirque du Soleil is most well-known for its breathtaking exercises of human physical skill, and Ovo delivers. One-arm handstands, bodies contorted into impossible configurations, compact forms twisting and flipping through the air with seeming effortlessness; its enough to revive dreams of the trapeze in even the most unathletic of us.

All of the undertakings were spectacular and mind-blowing, though some stood out more than others. Among the most memorable was the scarab trapeze act. Trapeze flight is always breathtaking, but throw in some dramatic tosses, culminating in perilous landings, and the tension becomes almost unbearable. Even if a flying man-scarab fails to alight elegantly in the intended location, his lengthy, yet somehow still graceful, fall to the net below merely reminds the audience of the strength and skill required.

In another gravity-defying performance, grasshoppers bounce and flip on lengthy trampolines, periodically seeming to adhere to a climbing wall as other creatures move up and down the walls face. The long, lithe green forms cast themselves into the air only to land and fly back up again, flinging themselves in an ever-increasing frenzy of flips toward the audience. Meanwhile, spiders and fleas cross the face of the climbing wall effortlessly, crawling up and down and back and forth sometimes even upside-down like the bugs they are meant to represent. The whole effect is one you might see with an ant-infested countertop turned on its side; the tiny figures adhere effortlessly to its surface.

In keeping with the bug-theme, the performers are in full bug costume, an area in which again Cirque du Soleil excels. Rather than designing a literal interpretation of a flea, a dragonfly, a ladybug, or an ant, costume designer Liz Vandal took creative license and captured the spirit rather than the literal look of each creature.

The stranger, for example, one may ultimately recognize as being a fly, not because of big, buggy eyes and buzzing wings (he has neither), but as a result of his irridiscent blue skin and the spiky protrusions encircling his abdomen. Spiders are distinguishable not by long, hairy legs, but by sleek, form-fitting body suits marked by stylized hourglasses.

Even the ladybug is not just another roly-poly black-dotted, slow-ambling damsel in distress but a quirky, lively black-booted siren whose inner-tube-like costume accentuates that loveable roundness characteristic of this lovely insects. Keep in mind, these costumes must fulfill an aesthetic purpose while also whithstanding some serious physical challenges.

On the other end of the spectrum are opening dance sequences, which bring to mind images of the cast of A Bugs Life making a Michael Jackson video. In addition, there seems to be little variation in the length of the various acts; many go on a little too long, challenging the audiences ability to maintain an attitude of proper awe. One can only keep a dropped jaw for so long until it becomes lockjaw.

Overall, Ovo stays true to expectations of Cirque du Soleil, expectations that have steadily risen since the early 1980s when the now world-famous circus was merely a small band of Canadian street performers. Impressive acrobatics combined with a razor-sharp aesthetic sense cannot fail to dazzle even the most discriminating of audiences.