Review of Dralion from Cirque du Soleil
Dralion from Cirque du Soleil
A review of the stadium show in Rochester, NY, May 2012
by Debra Ross
I took my pre-teens to the May 23, 2012 performance of Dralion from Cirque du Soleil at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena. They, and I, were fascinated, amazed, and occasionally confused, but overall we were just as delighted as audiences have been through the many years that Cirque du Soleil has been in existence.
Just what IS Dralion?
Dralion (pronounced "DRAH-lee-on") is a blend of acrobatics, artistry, choreography, and beautiful live music. It is performed by about 50 people who execute perfectly-orchestrated acrobatic dance. Interspersed between the acrobatic and dance acts are skits by four clowns whose humor might be described as "European slapstick."
Is there a plot? Is it Eastern? is it French?
Last time we saw Cirque du Soleil (Alegría, in 2009) I spent a lot of mental energy trying to understand the plot and meaning that seemed to be running through the acts. I gave up midway, because it was just too tough for me. I had figured that the point was just to enjoy the mood and the beauty of the human body pushed to its limits.
But apparently, I was wrong. There was supposed to be a whole lot of subtle postmodern meaning in Alegría. So I went to Dralion thinking that maybe it would be the same. But no, this time around, I'm pleased to report that I am confident that Cirque du Soleil is not trying to convey deep thoughts about the human experience; the deepest thought running through most of our heads was "Wow," with the occasional "Goodness, that's beautiful" thrown in.
But Ella, my eagle-eyed 11-year-old, did notice a couple of things that I hadn't. We weren't 15 minutes into the production when she said, "Mom, I think those four dancers are supposed to represent the Four Elements: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water." "Mmmm," I replied, the way mothers do. But it turns out Ella was right; I looked it up afterward, and four of the principle players are supposed to represent the four elements. Ella also pointed out that the music was a blend of Eastern and Western music, with a bunch of African and South Asian themes tossed in for good measure. (She's a Bollywood fan, so she picked up on this.) And although the air of Cirque du Soleil trends European--especially with the clowns--in this way you get a sense that the production is the very best of what the world has to offer when we all work together to create something beautiful.
What is the best thing about Dralion?
I hate hype. I also hate glitz. I especially hate when the glitz is designed to fool an audience into getting excited or to make something illusory seem real. So much of entertainment seems to be that, these days, trying to whip the audience into a frenzy, trying to pretend that a spectacle is indeed spectacular.
But Dralion is sincere magic. All of the action that you're seeing is real, not just a cheap trick. The lights, gorgeous costumes, and music enhance what is real rather than hide it. The audience's appreciation was equally sincere.
Most significantly, Cirque du Soleil is a cultural phenomenon that is uniquely of the age in which we live. There is nothing else like it, but it has left an indelible stamp on our culture. Saying "Cirque du Soleil" conjures up its own special images; those who have seen it understand when someone refers to it, and those who haven't, can't possibly. So even just on that dimension I would want to make sure my kids see Cirque du Soleil at least once in their lifetimes. If you're going to go just once, though, make sure it's when your kids are old enough to appreciate and remember it. Spending the money--and this show is pricier than many--isn't worthwhile otherwise.
What about the clowns?
Okay, so what about the clowns? My very-cerebral 12-year-old didn't like the clowns, because they use a combination of slapstick physical-humor comedy and Frenchitalian squeaky babble and mime. But she's an easily-embarrassed kid who has a hard time getting into the spirit of things on a perceptual rather than a conceptual level. She was adamant that the clowns were so different from the rest of the wonderful acrobatics that it detracted from the show.
Her sister, though, loves the Marx brothers and the Three Stoogles and wasn't at all worried about "what it all means," and so she appreciated the clowns and thought that they provided fun interludes between acts.
Me? I can take or leave clowns in general, but they are so much a part of the typical Cirque du Soleil experience that I'd never advocate taking them out. I just have to not think too hard when they're on stage.
What age kids would like Dralion from Cirque du Soleil?
In my opinion, kids under age 8 wouldn't really understand Dralion, or Cirque du Soleil in general. That's partly because younger kids would probably not understand the clown skits that divide the acrobatic acts--though it's possible they'd appreciate the physical comedy--but also because the show is designed for those with much longer attention spans. The first half is one hour, then there is a 20-minute intermission, and then the second half is 45 minutes. We did see several 3-to-5-year-olds who were enraptured, but I still say this is mostly for 8-year-olds and older, and it's probably best for those who like dance or gymnastics. When I asked my daughters which of their friends would most like the show, the answer was emphatic and unanimous: their 12-year-old friend Chloe who is a gymnast would like it best.
How long is the show?
I had heard strange rumors that the show was only 20 minutes each half and was therefore a poor value for the money. But that couldn't be further from the truth: Our show started at 7:30pm, and was done at 9:45pm. The first half was a bit over an hour, the second was 45 minutes, and there was a 20-minute intermission. It was a bit late for kids to be out, especially on a school night, but fortunately there are afternoon performances on Saturday, and Sunday.
Are the acts genuinely spectacular?
Dralion's acts are, in fact, amazing. The only time I've seen anything to equal it was the last time I saw Cirque du Soleil. The amount of control displayed by some of the performers, particularly the contortionists and the hand balancing artist, was astonishing. As I said above, this is the real deal; no tricks, no illusions... and no nets. The mother in me had to try to forget about the lack of safety nets for some of the acts so that I could enjoy the experience fully. The most fun act for me was the trampoline act. The "Hoop Diving" act, in which acrobats jump through a tower of hoops that sometimes spin, sounds the most mundane. And the performers make it look nearly effortless. This is, of course, until you think about what you're watching. At which point your jaw drops, and you ruminate about the hilarity that would ensue if you were to try it yourself.
To order tickets, click here for the Cirque du Soleil Rochester Ticketmaster page. I also found a Discounts page at Travelzoo.com but I did not verify whether this indeed works.
- Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 7:30pm Thursday, May 24, 2012, 7:30pm Friday, May 25, 2012, 7:30pm Saturday, May 26, 2012, 3:30pm & 7:30pm Sunday, May 27, 2012, 1pm & 5pm
©2012, Debra Ross