Cirque Soars In St. Pete

Until recently, I was among those aware of and curious about Cirque du Soleil, but had never seen it. It was pricey or inconvenient or seemed too Las Vegas-y or smacked of the Ed Sullivan Show on steroids or conflicted with a Lightning game. Or something.

I can no longer say that.

I can also say it – in this case “Varekai” in St. Petersburg — was well worth the wait.

It sounds like promotional hype, I know, but it really is a kaleidoscope of other- worldly sets and costuming complemented by innovative music and choreography that’s equal parts aesthetic and athletic.

And then there’s the acrobatics.

Which is like describing South Bend, IN., with the tagline: “And then there’s Notre Dame.”

Consummate, finely-honed athletes with abilities that seem at odds with natural laws — and body parts that just work, well, differently. From the slinky contortions of “body skaters” to the uncanny timing of trapeze artists and the surreal balance of acrobats.

It’s not like the high-performance athletes of our traditional sports. At some level, we can identify with some aspect of what we see on the court or the field, no matter how superb the play. We’ve done it – or lamely approximated it — on a more modest scale. (And I have the old game films to prove it.) We have, at least, a frame of reference.

I have none for this stuff. The jugglers leave you in disbelief.

One other observation.

These are truly world class athletes. How refreshing it was to see such wondrous performers who simply raise an arm and bow to acknowledge the audience’s enthusiastic appreciation. No Sharpies, no juvenile posturing, no dumb antics. No need for a silly “look-at-me” entreaty. They have real “clowns” for that sort of thing.


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