Review: Cirque du Soleil soars high with circus show Kooza

If you’re going to run away to join the circus, especially Cirque du Soleil, you’d best have an amazing skill or talent.

It’s a requirement for any Cirque show — and Kooza, which runs in the Big Top Tent at Stampede Park until Oct. 8, is no exception. Whether it’s a clown, acrobat or contortionist, every artist in Kooza is jaw-droppingly talented and a great performer as well, though some not as obviously so.

In the first half of the show, the high-wire act is easily the most spectacular. The five artists who hail from Spain and Colombia are all members of an extended circus family and they know how to elicit gasps and cheers from their audiences. It’s billed as a double-wire act because there are two wires, but it’s not until all five men congregate on the top wire that things get mind-bending. Two of the men riding bicycles are joined by a yolk that is a mini wire, and on top of that, the fifth man balances on a chair much to the disbelief of the audience, especially when he allows it to sway.

By comparison, Dmytro Dudnyk and Anastasiia Shkandybina on the unicycle seem tame, except that Dudnyk eventually ends up balancing Shkandybina on his head. It’s a feat that rivals anything on that high wire.

Japanese aerialist Mizuki Shinagawa performs an intricate ballet on the aerial silks that’s so beautiful to watch that you almost forget how much skill and practice this act requires, and how exquisitely it has been choreographed.

Contortionists never cease to amaze because everyone knows the limits of flexibility in their own bodies. The three young women from Mongolia who perform in Kooza are not just inconceivably flexible but also incredibly strong. At one point, one of the women bends to make a table of her body and balances the other two on her stomach.

The Wheel of Death, an astonishing act, opens the second half of Kooza, and it is easily the most exciting. Jimmy Ibarra Zapata and Angelo Lyezkysky Rodriguez, who hail from Colombia, run, jump, tumble and sway inside a pair of huge spinning wheels in the air. That’s enough to get an audience fired up to an almost deafening roar, but then they swing themselves onto the outside of these spinning wheels, once again running, jumping, skipping and tumbling. It’s an adrenaline rush, not just for them, but for the audience as well.

The Wheel of Death is the centrepiece of an elaborate dance sequence featuring spectacular costumes to recall the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. It’s visually spectacular.

The Wheel of Death is a hard act to follow but that’s the assignment for Aruna Bataa from Mongolia and Wei-Liang Lin from Taiwan. Batta manipulates as many as a dozen hoops at one time and Lin manipulates a device known as diabolos, which is like a highly sophisticated yoyo. To their immense credit, they each had the audience cheering and begging for more.

There’s even a showstopping drum solo from Israeli musician Eden Bahar, reminding us of the work of the band in the back tower to provide continuous background music.

Kooza is not just a showcase for acrobats but also for clowns, and the more than a dozen in Kooza delight adults as much as they do children. They are the warm-up artists as the audience enters and their hi-jinx are a delight.

Vocalists Joanie Goyette and Kathryn Holtkamp have the most unappreciated roles in the show because they have to try to sing over a band that often overpowers them, especially in the first half of the show.

Visually and technically, Kooza is a stunner, the perfect compliment to the international talent on display. From the moment you enter the Big Top compound, you’re greeted with a real carnival atmosphere.

{ SOURCE: The Calgary Herald }