Review of Alegria from Cirque du Soleil
Alegría from Cirque du Soleil
A review of the stadium show in Rochester, NY, September 2009
By Debra Ross
Three kids--girls, ages 8, 10, and 15, accompanied me to the September 23, 2009 performance of Alegria from Cirque du Soleil at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena. They, and I, were delighted, fascinated, and confused by turns, but overall we were just as amazed as audiences have been through the many years that Cirque du Soleil has been in existence.
Just what IS Alegría?
Alegría is a blend of acrobatics, artistry, choreography, and beautiful music. It is performed by about 50 people who execute perfectly-orchestrated movements, some slow, some so fast they blur, to gorgeous romantic music from René Dupéré. (The music was so great that I was pleased to discover afterward that there is a soundtrack available for purchase.) Interspersed between the acrobatic and dance acts are skits by clowns and other characters.
Is there a plot?
I asked the kids if they thought that there was a storyline to Alegría. They were sort of amazed that I should ask. "No, of course not," they said. And one added, "But if there was, it was awfully...French."
I didn't discern a plot, either. At the beginning of the show, I felt like I did when I was in the 9th grade, on the first day of (coincidentally) French class, when the teacher came in speaking French but none of us understood it. Soon, though, I stopped trying to figure out exactly what Alegría was saying, and 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. I checked out the Alegría web site tonight after the show. It turns out that these characters, and the various skits in between the acrobatics acts, are apparently communicating a LOT. Here's what the web site says Alegría is about:
- Power and the handing down of power over time, the evolution from ancient monarchies to modern democracies, old age, youth—it is against this backdrop that the characters of Alegría play out their lives. Kings' fools, minstrels, beggars, old aristocrats and children make up its universe, along with the clowns, who alone are able to resist the passing of time and the social transformations that accompany it.
Now, I don't count myself as particularly thick--in fact, I tend to over-analyze things--but that's not the message I got from Alegría. I was moved, certainly. The choreography was executed brilliantly. But I didn't really experience "the handing down of power over time" or anything like that, and I think if I had realized that I was supposed to get it on a cerebral level, I would have been very confused. My kids, too, enjoyed Alegría a great deal, especially after they stopped trying to "figure it out."
What is the best thing about Alegría?
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.
Alegría, on the other hand, is one of the most sincere performances that I have seen. True, the costumes are beautiful, the lighting is gorgeous...but all of the action that you're seeing is real, not just a cheap trick. And I think that the audience responded in kind.
What age kids would like Alegría?
In my opinion, kids under age 8 wouldn't really understand Alegría, or Cirque du Soleil in general. That's partly because younger kids wouldn't understand the skits that divide the acrobatic acts (which they would probably like), but also because the show is designed for those with much longer attention spans. My 8-year-old, who is fairly analytical as 8-year-olds go, didn't really understand it, either, but gave up trying to and just took in what she could. I would have had a hard time spending money for tickets for a younger child, especially for the more expensive seats. There weren't really many in the audience when we attended, anyway.
The 15-year-old who accompanied us was definitely the most immersed in the show of the three kids. A musician who herself has high standards, my young friend pronounced the main singer "fantastic." And the entire show was "hypnotizing and very captivating." It seems perfect for teenagers, especially those attracted to the arts.
How long is the show?
Our show started at 7:30pm, and was done by 9:50pm. There was a 20-minute intermission in the middle. It was a bit late for kids to be out, especially on a school night, but fortunately there are many afternoon performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Is the experience different depending on where you sit in the stadium?
Very often when I review a stadium show, like when I reviewed Walking With Dinosaurs earlier this year, I conclude that it doesn't really matter where you sit, especially in a relatively small stadium like the Blue Cross Arena. So I usually go for the cheapest seats. But in this case, I realized that the lower-level seats really do make a difference. The closer you are, the better you can see the expressions on the performers' faces, and it matters in Alegría. Plus, the additional engagement of your visual field immerses you more deeply in the experience. And, if you really want to spend-a-lot-but-get-a-lot, those who have the privileged seats on the floor next to the stage really are part of the show--and not in a hokey, embarrassing way either. So...we were sitting in section 218, the second level. Would I have spent an additional $10 per ticket to get down to the first level? Yes, in this case, I would have.
Are the acts genuinely spectacular?
Alegría's acts are, in fact, amazing. I've never seen anything like it. They certainly deserve all of the attention they've been given in the media. The amount of control displayed by some of the performers, particularly the contortionists and the hand balancing artist, was astonishing. Sometimes, as in the case of the trampoline gymnastics, they are so perfectly choreographed as to make it look almost easy--until you catch yourself and remember how terribly difficult it must be. Ella, my 8-year-old, had to bury her face in my shoulder during the fire-knife dance. "Are you okay?" I asked her. She whispered back to me, "I'm just glad I'm not them." I was glad she wasn't them, too...but I was happy that I had brought her to see this performance. We see a lot of shows. I know my kids will never forget this one.
To order tickets, click here for the Cirque du Soleil Rochester discounts page.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 7:30pm
Thursday, September 24, 2009, 7:30pm
Friday, September 25, 2009, 3:30pm & 7:30pm
Saturday, September 26, 2009, 3:30pm & 7:30pm
Sunday, September 27, 2009, 1pm & 5pm
©2009, Debra Ross