Leaping frogs and lizards set the scene on what’s meant to be a giant tortoise shell (the iconic Mother of the world in many narratives). A traditional Hoop Dancer with his tangle of interlocking circles stretches out to call up a vision of soaring eagles. And then two arrogant surfer dudes start fighting over the hot beach babe.
It’s a common pattern for fans of Cirque du Soleil: Laugh out loud comedy mixed with unexpected — and unbelievable — acts of athleticism. There’s really nothing like it. Even if you’ve seen them all.
Cirque’s latest show to travel through its Big Top at National Harbor is TOTEM, a journey of the evolution of mankind — from an early amphibian state to our urge to take to the air. Like other performances familiar to veteran Cirque-goers, it includes feats of strength (perches), agility (unicycles and bowls), quickness (manipulation), flexibility and coordination (foot juggling), and precision (roller skates).
Some anticipated elements of past Cirque spectaculars are missed (TOTEM features less trapeze and no contortion), but TOTEM brings, instead, a weightier than usual theme that is poignant, perplexing, and ultimately… personal.
It’s a story of our humblest beginnings and most sacred traditions to the wacky ways we interact with our environment today. And if the journey to now is this entertaining, what fantasy the future brings!