Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist



Cross this off your Bucket List: Cirque du Soleil arrives in Columbia

Posted 4/25/2013 10:46:00 AM

The film “The Bucket List” inspired many Americans to create their own checklist of things to do before moving on to the Great Beyond. I was surprised to learn recently that my husband has a Bucket List of his own, when he declared that he had crossed an item off of it after sailing a boat on the Mediterranean during a work trip. I’ve never made a Bucket List. I’ve never even declared that there is something that I absolutely have to do before I’m unable. But yesterday I realized that I was in the process of crossing something off of that list that hasn’t yet been made.

WATCH A OF VIDEO THE QUIDAM REHEARSAL! was invited to attend a rehearsal for "Quidam," Cirque du Soleil’s latest touring show that arrived in Columbia this week. Having never seen the Montreal-based circus company perform live, I was intrigued. In my unfamiliarity with seeing the performers in the flesh, I went in with few expectations, thinking I would meet a few large, bald, brusque men who would be smoking cigarettes and wiping gym chalk onto their stained wife-beaters. Instead, just walking backstage was like walking into a mesmerizingly magical world similar to the ones Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté famously creates. Young people, many of whom compete at the World Gymnastics Championship level, were nonchalantly practicing moves that would put most people in the hospital. Music with Cirque du Soleil’s signature intercontinental vibe was pulsing through the Colonial Life Arena, and costume trunks were open, revealing makeup and wigs that seemed to be watching over the scene.

The 50 men and women who perform in the nightly shows are a part of a unique fraternity of the world’s best athletes, but their particular chapter is unique because they are also some of the world’s most polished entertainers. It’s clear from their energy and enthusiasm that they love to play to a crowd, and love it even more when the crowd plays back. This is where extroverted athletes go to have the most fun that can be humanly possible with their craft.

We chatted with J.P. Viens, the martial arts-trained vertical ropes expert who sometimes plays the character named Boum Boum in “Quidam”. He went over their daily schedule, which amazingly includes a workout immediately following the physically demanding nightly performances. But it isn’t all work for the group comes to town. When they first arrived in Columbia they were able to take in the sights and sounds of the capitol city, which Viens found fun and engaging.

Then it happened. I got to play with some of the performer’s headpieces. These are handmade of papier mâché, and in many cases contain real human hair that is better conditioned than that of some Hollywood celebrities. So much care is put into the detail of the 2,500 costume pieces that travel with the show that they really feel as though they are infused with some sort of magic, and I knew that later on I was going to see something amazing.

Later, when I went to see the opening performance of “Quidam” with a friend, I was completely baffled by the demonstrations of ability. The entire audience was loudly gasping in disbelief and cheering for what should be the impossible. Everyone who watched felt what Zoe, the young girl who is introduced to the world of quidam, was going through as she longed for color and animation to return to her family life as the magical characters entertained her. The show was riveting and beautiful, and at the end of it I realized that seeing Cirque du Soleil perform live is an experience that no one should miss. It should be on everyone’s Bucket List.

If you are in Columbia you can still check this item off of your list. Tickets are still available and can be purchased through Cirque du Soleil’s website and at the ticket window at the Colonial Life Center. The group will remain in Columbia through April 28. You won’t be sorry you went.