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  • Alexandra Garfield

High Volta-ge

Cirque du Soleil is known for pushing the envelope in its entrancing circus shows. Volta is no exception. Themed around self-expression and street sports, Volta is full of breathtaking stunts and performances.

Like other Cirque du Soleil shows, there is a subtle storyline that ties the show together—although understanding it is not necessary to enjoy the show. It starts with a talent competition known as the “Mr. Wow Show” where people in gold judge whether different acts are “wow” or not. It is here that the audience first meets protagonist, Waz, a talented dancer who secretly has blue feathers instead of hair. When this secret is discovered, Waz hides from the judgment of the phone-obsessed “greys.” Soon he finds comfort in the excitement and self-acceptance of a colorful group of “freespirits” while slowly learning to accept himself as well.

But the story is not what makes a Cirque du Soleil show exciting or memorable. It’s the amazing acts. There are many impressive bicycle stunts and a jubilant acrobatic act where a man on a unicycle lifts and supports another performer.

I am always most entranced by the performances suspended above the stage. If that’s your cup of tea, Volta does not disappoint, boasting three impressive aerial acts. The first is a solo-performance by Waz where the character does an amazing sequence hanging from a kitchen-style lamp. It’s one of the least intense acts, but also one of the most beautiful as the gymnast moves and swings through the air in time with the music.

The second has two women on what appear to be bungee cords while four men perform on Swiss rings. Set to the most memorable song in the show, this act is remarkable in part because of its great staging. The scene truly utilizes all areas of the performance space. The two female aerialists utilize the vertical aspect of the space, moving quickly up and down while vocal soloist Darius Anthony Harper dominates the horizontal plane on a moving platform. Suspended from that platform are the male performers swinging through the depth of the stage. Add to that some beautiful costumes and great lighting effects and it creates a very powerful scene.

It’s the third aerial act, however, that is truly unforgettable. In a costume made seemingly only out of paper flowers, a woman sits in the Lotus position in the middle of the stage. There is a wire stretching straight up from her, but even knowing what’s about to happen, you can’t quite believe it. That is until the aerialist starts to rise—suspended only by her hair. It’s a stunning and elegant performance that truly stands out even within the larger show.

However, my favorite act of the show was when Mr. Wow returned for a hilarious wordless act. The clown-like bit was simply an interaction at a laundry mat, but his performance made the scene laugh-out-loud funny, earning more than a few belly laughs.

As usual, Cirque du Soleil’s current show, Volta, is light on any plot elements to keep the show moving in a unified direction. But honestly, the storyline isn’t what keeps the crowds coming back for every show. The glory of the show is in its high-energy acrobatic acts. From bicycle stunts to trampoline daredevilry and stunning aerial acts, Voltadelivers on everything you might want from a modern circus show and is topped off with the class and sophistication indicative of Cirque du Soleil.

Volta by Cirque du Soleil is performing under the big top at AT&T Park in San Francisco November 15, 2018 through February 3, 2019. The big top will then move to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose for performances February 13 through March 24, 2019. Tickets start at $54 and the show runs about two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission.


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