4 out of 4 stars
Cirque Du Soleil celebrates its 30th anniversary in Chicago with high energy Volta. Energetic, urban and contemporary, VOLTA is a captivating voyage of discovery that showcases never-before-seen under the Big Top acrobatics in a visually striking world. Driven by a stirring melodic score and inspired in part by the adventurous spirit that fuels the culture of street sports, VOLTA is a story of transformation. It is about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and recognizing one’s own power to make it possible. Ultimate freedom comes with self-acceptance, and with the liberation of the judgement of others.
2019 is a special year for Chicago and Cirque du Soleil as it marks the 30th anniversary of the coming of the circus troupe in the Windy City. This year for the first time they raised the tent at Soldier Field. Indeed, the first-ever Cirque du Soleil touring show to visit the USA, CIRQUE RÉINVENTÉ, stopped by Chicago in 1989 for the first time. This year, VOLTA will then be the 25th production to be presented in the area since the Canadian company first visited.
The performance opens with the Mr. Wow Talent Show. Groups showcase their rope skipping talents through taking double-dutch to another level. This sequence illustrates the connection between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Familiar sequences with talents like rope skipping and contemporary dance amongst BMX tricks, unicyclist acrobatic balance, and areal skills.
Moving forward through the story line our main protagonist meets Ela, a roller-skating rainbow of a person. With insane ease, Ela guides our protagonist through self-discovery in accepting themselves. Contrasted against Ela’s technicolor hair and skates, there is a mass of grey ragged tech obsessed people being guided by the small square light in their hands, clearly signally our devices and phones. A clear difference between the extrovert joy driven individuals clad is warm bright colors against the introverted isolated blue grey clad individuals following the LED glow of their technology. The choreography furthers this division through a rigid abruptness by the masses against the flawless smooth gliding solo of Ela and her roller-skates across the stage. You would think they she was born with these wheels on her feet! Spectacularly whimsical!
The biggest jump from this encapsulating world of dull drudgery is ‘Rise & Shine’ the Trampowall! How these individuals do not get dizzy or miss a step is beyond my comprehension. The rotating circular stage gives you a 360 view to this block tower that at least six individuals are jumping around from plus from a multitude of levels! There is something intrinsically satisfying about someone flying through the air. Add on the complete precision that a jump on a trampoline takes in order to land where you intended is one thing, but add on a bunch of other people in sequence doing the same, up down, across - it’s a complete mindwarp.
Another huge feat is in the hair suspension sequence. Yes, you read that right. Hair. Suspension. From a cupola 62 feet above the ground in a beautiful Asian inspired movement from sitting center stage to swinging gracefully from the artist’s hair attached to a hook.
Volta employs 200 local employees from Chicago for the duration its stay and the epic scale of this production included a crew of more than 60 individuals raising the 100+ poles into place and the 500 stakes that hold it down. The Big Top can withstand winds up to 75mph, so rain or shine – the show goes on!
The lively Mr. Wow is hands down … wow. Head to toe decked in gold, this character is the best clown performance I have ever seen. The sim like language and timing was just spot on. There was not only great humor, but in one break during the laundry mat sequence, the joke/physical stunt went awry and that happens - particularly in tumbling, but the individual playing the Clown was so perfect in the recovering and took it in good humor which made the performance way more enjoyable - insanely talented recovery and acceptance. As a former Cirque member mentioned next to me during intermission, it all seems like everyone has a genuinely amazing time and loves what they do so much it’s hard to let little moments like that really get you down.
Insane lighting schemes were something that I could not visually get over. As a visual artist, I adore good lighting and in “Cause You’re Still Here - Aerial Straps” I was thoroughly impressed. The two performers serve as two versions of our main protagonist - one dressed in grey blue pants and the other in orange red pants. Seamless timing through the air is a duet for the best of both worlds. It was symbiotic aerial work and truly examined finding the balance within yourself. We are complex human beings and it’s the balance that makes us unique.
As a grand finale, we return to the concept of the bike. Our protagonist learning how to ride from his mother and this final movement really hones in on the amazing things you can accomplish from something so simple that sparked your joy. Following your passion will lead to insanely awesome things. ‘Momentum’ harnesses this passion with flips and spins. Clear ramps add to the transparency in Cirque’s goal to inspire wonder from all angles leading to a full ramp park on the stage to end an action blast evening!
Volta will be presented under the Big Top at the Solider Field South Lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago through July 6th, 2019. Tickets can be purchased online at www.cirquedusoleil.com/volta or calling 1-877-9CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783).
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!