Despite the casual nature and relaxed footwear that constitutes my daily fashion default, my inner chick does enjoy dressing up for a night out. Pair that with big budget death-defying circus acts performed in colorful costumes with stunning technical effects and you’ve pretty much hit my top 2. Add in decadent food and adult beverages and you’ve covered my top 4 faves. Complete the fantasy with all that just over a mile from my apartment in downtown San Jose and we have a winner. Somewhere between having an extravagant adult evening out and being propelled back into the innocent, easily enchanted, jaw dropping wonderment of childhood lies the Cirque Du Soleil experience and TOTEM is no exception. It’s a night fit for a Princess, capable of transforming any commoner into royalty for a night.
The storylines of all Cirque shows tend to lean toward the abstract and decidedly European esoteric esthetic and aside from a handful of recognizable “characters” that could be plucked from TOTEM we are hard pressed to locate any semblance of a traditional plot. We are presented with a bizarre palate for sure as TOTEM’s story is pretty out there even by Cirque standards. It’s definitely a celebration of life and earth, I’m just not sure who or what everyone on stage was intended to represent or how they related.
And, it doesn’t really matter. Although initially compelled to connect each moment together for some greater meaning and squeeze it into my neat little American thought box, the sheer brilliance of the stage, lighting, projections, costumes and performer skills broke me of that compulsion pretty quickly. Lack of any obvious linear plot makes little difference to the enjoyment of the piece over all once you surrender yourself to it.
An obvious highlight for me was the score. Of all the Cirque shows I’ve seen live (this was my 5th manifestation I’ve seen) I think this was my favorite in terms of the music. A great Native American influence dominated with a variety of fantastic rhythms infused with a healthy dose of gypsy flamenco represented along with your traditional, mystical Cirque brand, ambient harmonies, provided just the right accents and subliminal emotional accompaniment to the show. I may just buy the CD although there is nothing like feeling the vibrations of live music, espcially when there is such a primal feel to the compositions.
As far as the selection of acrobatics and clowning, if you’ve seen a Cirque show before, you’ll certainly notice some staple acts with slightly new spins on them. As is the case with these shows though, just when you think you’ve seen it all, Cirque goes and pulls out all the stops, exhibiting something truly unique and often mind-blowing. Indeed, usually something that you’re pretty sure defies some law of physics. There were three such acts I’d never seen before that really were astounding. (But no spoilers!) Additionally I found a fairly “standard” trapeze act to be particularly amazing not only from an athletic standpoint, but so well acted it made a special imprint on my heartstrings. Yes, I do have them.
If there was one “complaint” about the talented lineup, it might be that what I found to be the most amazing act (with no net, harness, and an act that involved so many working parts, crazy balance and team work) to be too close to the beginning of the show. It made several of the acts that followed look just slightly less amazing. One should NOT be jaded or too critical at these shows though because the reality is, you can not to ANY of it. Seriously. You can’t, so no fair judging. I checked my scrutiny half way through the first act and found I enjoyed the second half immensely.
The tent is warm and there are really no bad views from any of the sections of the house. Seats are a bit tight and not the most comfortable, but you hardly notice it once the show starts and with a good 30 minute intermission you get a chance to stretch your legs and elbows. Parking is $10 or so at the lot located on site, but honestly if you are up for a few blocks walk you can find free street parking and a Pedi Cab is an excellent option as well if you are up for the adventure to and from the Downtown core.
In the end this is an experience well worth your time and precious entertainment dollars as a special night out. There are genuine moments of magic that happen throughout this performance and the creativity is truly inspiring. It’s impossible not to let a little part of you run away with TOTEM and this wonderfully imaginative evening receives a sparkling 4 1/2 out of 5 jewels in the tiara. The colorful world of TOTEM awaits you through April 15th at the Grand Chapiteau at the Taylor Street Bridge in San Jose.