Cirque du Soleil, despite having become the circus equivalent of Coldplay, began in 1984 as a group of street performers. Their evolution into a touring phenomenon, able to fill the SECC and building a large repertoire that includes a tribute to Michael Jackson, not only encouraged a generation of circus performers to approach a more theatrical aesthetic but developed a unique style.
Alegria – dubbed a baroque ode to youth and grace – has the distinctive appearance of a classic Cirque production: costumes and acts that have roots in traditional circus given a balletic luxury; a custom composed soundtrack, performed live, a huge cast and an allusive, mercurial narrative. This combination has seen the company move firmly into the mainstream. They showcase the technical excellence of each act, ranging from a fire-knife dance to the synchronised trapeze, while using characters like 'the white singer', 'the black singer', nymphs and 'nostalgic old birds' to tie the individual moments of spectacle into an atmospheric, evocative show.
The modern production values, polished choreography and epic scale of Alegria reflect a vision that company founder Guy Laliberte first saw in the street performers of Quebec in the 1980s: as circus moved away from animal acts, the emphasis on human excellence and the possibilities of using acrobats in the same way as trained dancers allowed Cirque du Soleil to find a niche. By transplanting the carnival energy into a grandiose theatricality, Alegria’s high concept frames the acts’ athleticism in a vivid staging. [Phil Gatt]