Luzia: Just say yes to this sensual extravaganza

Acrobat Sascha Bachmann has chops. So does everybody on the design team.

Luzia is by far the most sensual Cirque du Soleil show I’ve seen. Go with your body wide awake. Go with somebody you can grab onto when you’re screaming and lean into when you’re swooning.

Most Cirque shows are set in magical realms, but that’s only partly true of Luzia, which unfolds in a dream-like version of an actual country, Mexico. A clown Traveler is our guide. He falls out of the sky and tumbles into Mexico’s jungles, deserts, and city streets.

As set by director Daniele Finzi Pasca, the vision of this show is culturally resplendent without being folkloric. So Mexico’s embrace of the animal world emerges in characters who have the giant silver heads of fish, for instance. And a much-larger-than-life-size jaguar puppet prowls the stage, tilting its head and flicking its feline ears.

The colours are so rich you could eat them. In, “Hoop Diving on Treadmills”, the first big number, the acrobats are dressed as hummingbirds. In their plumage, persimmon bleeds into raspberry. And the stacked metallic hoops they jump through gleam with the blue-green that you sometimes catch on the edge of glass.

The combination of conception, design, technology, and circus skills has always set Cirque apart and that holds true in Luzia. In “Hoop Diving”, the acrobats race towards one another on two giant treadmills that can go in the same or opposite directions. And, like much of the show, this whole act is on a continual revolve.

That’s just the beginning. In “Hand Balancing”, a moustachioed lifeguard dressed in red (Sascha Bachmann) balances on an ever-higher series of slim, stacked poles, performing extraordinary feats of strength and control while, in the static, stylized waves beneath him, bathers cavort in swimsuits made of big, honkin’ aquamarine sequins and sizeable silver mirrors. (The intoxicating costumes are by Giovanna Buzzi.)

There’s music (by Simon Carpentier): the spinning of a juggler’s silver clubs finds perfect aural expression in angelic, metallic marimbas.

And, of course, some of the skill levels are through the roof — almost literally. In “Swing to Swing”, acrobats go flying through space — as high as 30 feet in the air — launched from long swings. And I’ve never seen a contortionist that’s the same species as Aleksei Goloborodko: the guy’s a snake.

That’s a lot, but Luzia isn’t perfect. The show takes a while to get going. The Traveller (Fool Koller) is only an okay clown; he doesn’t have the originality or responsiveness of the best. Impressive though “Swing to Swing” is, Act 2 doesn’t have a climax. A number called “Cyr Wheel and Trapeze” splits the focus between its two elements. And opening night in Vancouver felt undersupplied with aerial skills. (The press kit lists a routine called “Aerial Straps” that we didn’t get to see.)

Still … There’s a magnificent curtain of water that appears and reappears throughout Luzia. (The set is by Eugenio Caballero.) And sometimes images are projected onto that curtain, so gigantic fish and birds fall from the sky in watery cascades. And the singer, Majo Cornejo, wears a white dress that blooms into scarlet flowers. So yes to all of that. Yes.

LUZIA Written by Daniele Finzi Pasca and Julie Hamelin Finzi. Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca. Under the Big Top in Concord Pacific Place on Thursday, October 4. Continues until December 29. Tickets.

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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