Produced by: Cirque du Soleil
Directed by: Bastien Alexandre
Choreographed by: Julie Perron
Music direction by: Anthony Gonzalez
When: February 13 through March 10, 2019
Where: Under the Big Top at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose
Tickets: $54 and up. Visit cirquedusoleil.com/volta or call 1-877-924-7783.
all the time, in San Jose
All the spills and thrills that we’ve come to love from this company are loosely tied around a story about Waz, a gameshow contestant who has lost touch with himself. His blue hair sets him apart and he at first withdraws into himself, until he realizes that his difference and uniqueness can set him free.
The show starts with a display of rope skipping by the Otaku Double Dutchers. But this is not rope-skipping out of the schoolyard. These guys skip rope at a ferocious pace, and multiple skippers combined with LED-lit ropes turn this into a dazzling display.
There always seems to be someone with an umbrella at a Cirque du Soleil show, probably because there is always water involved at some point. And as we took our seats and folded our own umbrellas from the San Jose rain, a display screen changed from sunlit fields to a rainy downpour, requiring the appearance of said umbrella. But this just acts as a backdrop for Waz performing acrobatics, hanging on just to a lamp at the end of a long rope which we are told illuminates his journey.
The highlight of the show is surely the Trampowall. Acrobats fly down from a 30-foot-high wall onto trampolines, and then bounce back up. At first they do it individually and from the lower levels, but gradually more and more acrobats jump down and bounce back up. Then they change levels, then one goes to the very top of the wall. They seem to climb the wall as they touch it, pushing themselves back down. Their precision is amazing, as the trampolines below are really not that big. Hearts-a-pounding and many sharp intakes of breath could be heard from the audience.
After the excitement of the Trampowall, we are presented with a little lighter entertainment from comedian “Mr. Wow,” whose only utterance is “Wow.” His act with the “live” washing machines was great fun. He was followed by the BMX biker and ballet dancer combo. Very interesting juxtaposition of street dancing and classical ballet. Rounding out the first half — the show runs more than two hours total — were the Swiss Rings and some high-velocity bungee jumpers.
With the title of the “Urban Jungle” comes a set of different sizes of hexagonal rings that connect vertically, providing a target through which the acrobats run and jump. It starts slow and fairly easy, but gets more and more complex as the rings get smaller and higher, and the acrobats make some crazy moves in pairs. The final pièce de résistance, however, involves the lead jumper attempting to run and jump through the top ring as it slowly turns, requiring impeccable timing — which he at first fails to achieve, showing us how hard it is. Or maybe it’s part of the act, as he builds our anticipation over a number of failed attempts, asking the audience for “one more try.” Does he make it eventually? You’ll have to watch the show to see.
The highlight of the second half is “Mirage,” wherein a performer starts by sitting in the Lotus position. But what catches our eyes is that she is attached to the ceiling by a rope, and the rope is attached only to her hair. She proceeds to swing back and forth and round and round, making shapes and dance moves with her body as she is suspended. Ouch, doesn’t that hurt?
Another clown interlude, some contemporary dance, a wonderful singing violin player and some more BMX bikers, and the Cirque finally lets us out of its grasp. A sometimes funny, sometimes heart-stopping, always enthralling show finally comes to an end. And as the crowd disperses we can hear multiple conversations discussing which part they liked best. All of it. Brilliant.
Cirque du Soleil is at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for the first time, and “Volta” employs 200 local workers from San Jose. “Volta” runs Tuesdays to Sundays through March 24, 2019.