"I'm going to make a show around my happiness to be alive," said Guy Caron, Cirque du Soleil director and its first artistic director, describing the theatrical circus company's latest production, Dralion. "It is a celebration of life."
The Cirque, last in New York three years ago with Quidam, arrived April 4 with Dralion, an all-new spectacle combining ancient Chinese acrobatic arts with the Cirque's typical style, at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Opening night is set for April 12, but already, the producers have decided to extend and offer twenty more performances. As such, Dralion will now close June 3 instead of May 20.
Less story-based than recent Cirque shows like Quidam, Dralion revels in the four elements - earth, air, fire and water. This theme permeates the costumes (entirely composed of blue, green, red and ochre) and the acts, performed by 56 artists from around the world, including 37 from China. Among the feats of daring are acrobatics involving ballet on lights, hoop diving, bamboo poles, juggling, teeterboard, double trapeze and skipping ropes.
Dralion, a combination of the words dragon and lion, was chosen as the show's title because of the power the animals represent, both for the Asian world, where the dragon was the emperor's animal, and the occidental, where the lion is represented on many national and royal crests, including Great Britain's. The made-up creature also serves as the central part of a lion dance, a tradional form from China, choreographed for the Cirque not in a traditional Chinese way, but as something new.
Caron, founder of the National Circus School in Montreal and first artistic director of the Cirque, directed Dralion with help from Francois Barbeau (costume designer), Stephane Roy (set designer), Luc Lafortune (lighting designer), Violaine Corradi (composer), Julie Lachance (choreographer), Guy Desrochers (sound designer) and Michel Dallaire (clown act co-designer). As Director of Creation at the Cirque, Gilles Ste Croix is billed as the show's creator. Corradi composed her contemporary score for a nine-piece band and a series of singers. Like the color-coded costumes, there are musical cues to which element is being dealt with. Earth uses African rhythms and drums, while air is in tradional European forms like the ballade. In China, Corradi explains, there are five elements — the fifth is the soul. In the piece, "the singers are the soul," she said.
Dralion has been traveling the United States and Canada for the past three years. Stops have included Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Minneapolis/St-Paul and Atlanta with Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Boston to follow after New York/New Jersey.
Other Cirque du Soleil shows are the touring Algeria, Mystere, and Saltimbanco and the three permanently settled pieces - "O" and Mystere in Las Vegas and La Nouba at Walt Disney World.
Prices for Dralion range from $85-$43.75 with a special VIP package available for $190-$130. For reservations, call (800) 678-5440 or order online at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com.
— By Christine Ehren