The circus is officially in town.
By Toronto’s waterfront, the renowned Cirque du Soleil has made Ontario Place its home for the next few months to perform their show Alegría.
The peculiar sight of an enormous tent, decorated in blue and white swirls, seems inviting to those who walk along the lakeshore. Banners of green-feathered faces and odd characters surround the area. Stringed lights hang even in the daytime, filling the crowd with all the excitement a circus has to offer.
From September 12 to November 24, Cirque du Soleil is in Toronto performing one of their most popular shows. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Franco Dragone’s iconic 1994 version, they’ve chosen to reinvent it in a new way while keeping the main essence of the original.
During the performance, the story itself is not laid out for its audience, as there’s barely any dialogue. They show their tale through actions and acrobatics. In a behind-the-scenes video, stage director Jean-Guy Legault clarifies the story: the piece follows a kingdom that suffers the loss of its king. A bizarre character known as Mr. Fleur, the king’s jester, tries to take over the position of power—a symbol which is represented by a glowing scepter. A group of youths, known as the Bronx, tear away from the kingdom’s old ways and challenge the new authority.
Through its fantastical storytelling, Alegría showcases a theme of resilience, as Legault notes in the video. “[Alegría’s] message is still relevant today,” he says. “[It’s] a desire for change that can be felt throughout the world.” Alegría is a Spanish word meaning happiness and joy. The show takes this word to display a great expression of hope and change from the younger generation as they go against the fixed visions of the past. It conveys an inspirational message, as the fight in their world parallels the one in our own.
The vivacious nature in which the artists perform with is as mesmerizing as the creative storytelling. The moment you step into Cirque du Soleil’s tent, the Big Top, you enter a different world—a fantastical world in which fiction comes to life. It was hard to take my eyes off the stage as each of the various acts seemed humanly impossible. Every performance, like Tuione (Onè) Tovo’s insane fire knife dance and Elena Lev’s shocking flexibility with hula-hoops, kept me watching with wonder. In between the acrobatics, the story also includes quirky, comedic acts which are truly enjoyable and wholesome.
What fascinates me most about Alegría are the artists themselves. Pure joy and liveliness animate their faces. They catch audience eyes with unique costumes and beautifully painted makeup. With every jump and every fall, my mind kept contemplating the idea of trust. It’s amazing to think about how much trust they must have in each other to accomplish these feats. The dedication and efforts that Cirque du Soleil puts into Alegría is evident and their hard work paid off.
For me, every element of the show comes together through the music. The impressive live instrumentals and singing are captivating, to the point where it feels enchanting. The songs convey such strong emotions that match the passion of the artists, as they fly through the air or play with the limits of the human body.
As it was my first time watching, Alegría was a great introduction to the world of Cirque du Soleil. It’s not often that we get to leave reality, but Cirque du Soleil gives us that chance (especially with their student discount). I look forward to the next time I get to see that glimpse of another realm again.