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Cirque du Soleil's New S.F. Show Is Appropriately Gender Fluid

Scott Lucas | November 14, 2013 | Story Galleries and Performance

At the new Cirque du Soleil show, Amaluna, audiences will see something never before done at one of the Canadian troupe's performances. Three-quarters of the cast will be women. "It's thrilling," says director Diane Paulus. "The typical Cirque show is seventy-five percent men. This is the exact opposite." It's a chance for the venerable performance troupe to broaden its palette.

The show draws on inspirations that include Greek mythology, Shakespeare's The Tempest, and Mozart's The Magic Flute. But, as in all Cirque du Soleil shows, the real draw is the acrobatics.

The show also features several new acts, including a pair of performers who maneuver on canes above—and in—a giant bowl of water. "It's kind of like a hot tub" says artistic director Mark Pawsey. "They do contortions in there, so we had to heat it to 98 degrees. I'm sure the audience would like to be in it too." There's also an act in which one of the cast balances palm fronds. Doesn't sound too hard, but Pawsey says, "The first time I saw it I was breathless." Another highlight is the uneven bars act, in which half a dozen women swing from bar to bar simultaneously. "We asked, what if we found all the world's best female uneven bar gymnasts and made an act out of it?" says Paulus.

There are plenty of challenges in putting on the show, which is set up near AT&T Park. From the start, there were communications issues. After all, the polyglot cast of 45 artists hails from a wide range of countries—China, Mongolia, Russia, Canada, and Australia are all represented. "During the creation, we would have meeting where you couldn't hear yourself talk because of all the translators," says Pawsey. Paulus laughs when she remembers the early going. "It's like working at the Olympic Village."

And the care of the costumes is no small task either. The cast wears clothing that range from denim to a specially-made form of washable leather. The team even crafted headpieces that tower two feet high, and yet are lighter than a baseball cap. Larry Edwards, the head of wardrobe, says that the laundry takes two hours a night to do. There's no dryers though, because they don't want to damage the material. Instead, they set up giant fans and air dry all night long. "It's not difficult," he says, "but it's a lot of work."

"We know that there are many people who come back to Cirque shows time and again," says Pawsey. "So we wanted to give them something new."

Amaluna runs under the Big Top at AT&T Park through January 12. For more information, click here.

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