'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…..
Cirque du Soleil originated as a street performance troupe called Les
Echassiers (The Stilt-Walkers) in Quebec City in 1984 and rapidly evolved into the theatrical, character and narrative-driven approach of its current productions. Notable are the absence of animals and the cohesive use of story, music, and circus skills to tell the tale. Currently, the largest contemporary circus company in the world, Cirque du Soleil is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, employing almost 5,000 people and fielding multiple shows simultaneously worldwide.
Cirque's 'Twas the Night Before is the company's first-ever Christmas production. The libretto takes a slightly different twist on the familiar tale with Isabella, a jaded young girl, wandering away from her father into the night to search for the meaning of Christmas. The soundtrack uses well-known carols and holiday songs, while the choreography applies the eight core circus performance routines to interpret lines of the poem.
The program starts with the duo straps performing an intricate aerial pas
de deux of dazzling lifts that suggests the child, Isabella's fascination with
the snowfall and the magic of the night. The seeming weightlessness of the
pair and their effortless, airborne balletic grace launches the air of
wonderment. The ensemble of elves provides the next interlude with
dancing, juggling, and flying sparks of light. Next the company continues
with a funny group act on the Acro table using tumbling and other
gymnastic acrobatics to suggest the rambunctious children not in their
beds, but very excited for Santa's arrival.
Then comes another master solo act: the hotel cart. An aerial bellman's
cart serves as a very elusive platform for the artist portraying Ava, a spoiled
starlet, who discards the presents she disdains one by one.
Her choreographed piece includes head stands in mid- air, arabesques, and
triple axles – all in the precarious confines of the cart. She is followed by a
duo on roller skates who suggest a dance on a frozen lake. Their virtuosity
and perfectly timed feats conjure up their trust and love.
Another ensemble piece provides the segue. In Diabolo, a quartet of young
men toss and juggle glowing diabolos that complement the verses about the
merriment and twinkle in Santa's eyes. Then Isabella's father, who has
come in search of his daughter, doffs his long robes and performs
choreography on the aerial lamp.
The metallic disc soaring across the stage suggests the moonlight "on the
breast of the new fallen snow" in the poem. Together with the next act, a
woman performing an aerial balletic solo that allows her to use her arms
and legs freely because she is attached to the flying pic by her hair, are
perhaps the most breathtakingly lyrical of the show.
A fast-paced ensemble performance of hoop diving through a pillar of five
hoops high and ending in limber somersaults follows. The antics of the
eight gymnasts are meant to embody the frolicking of the reindeer, as
Isabella and her father are reunited and reopen the story book with the
poem they began at the start of the evening. Santa appears, and the
company all bring the performance to its joyously exuberant dancing
'Twas the Night Before is Cirque du Soleil served up in holiday garb, and
yet there is an indisputable magic all its own. There is comfort in the very
predictability of the story, music, and the circus acts themselves. The
audience can focus its attention on the dazzling virtuosity of the performers
and marvel at the danger-defying choreography they execute. The aerial
acts summon a sense of otherworldliness, while the acrobatics return us to
earth, albeit with a sense of superhuman strength and suppleness. Time
races by – helpful in sustaining the illusion and the tension. For less than
two hours, we become part of an experience that defies gravity and human
limitations. The fearlessness on stage is contagious, and we are inspired to
imagine ourselves travelers in a brightly colored world of infinite