I left Durham Performing Arts Center dizzy and dazzled last night. It was opening night for Cirque Dreams Illumination, a show for which I had absolutely no expectations. I’ve never seen a Cirque show, and until yesterday, I had no idea Cirque Dreams is not affiliated with Cirque de Soleil (but it turns out that doesn’t matter).
I went with my BF because we were excited to see an ad for his Design group in the new playbill. But it turns out the show was just as thrilling. I literally spent half of the show clinging to my BF and whispering: “Don’t do it, Don’t do it, Don’t do it” as balancers, strap fliers, aerialists and a chair climber attempted breath-holding feats.
There were moments where I was so tense because I was worried a man walking a tight rope would crash onto the stage as he did somersaults. At one point, a guy climbed onto a swinging platform, balanced on a board over a cylinder and stepped through a hoop all while dangling high above the stage. I saw contortionists rearrange their bodies in impossible positions and climb on top of each other in ways I didn’t know were humanly possible.
The climax came when a petite woman climbed into a series of metal rings and held on for her life while the man below held the ring in the air and spun it so fast that it left me dizzy. The picture below shows the scene I’m describing, only imagine those rings spinning so fast that you can barely see the woman inside. (I e-mailed DPAC folks this morning for some pictures because I feel they do a better job showing off the show than my descriptions. They were taken by DPAC photographer Noah Rosenblatt-Farrell.)
The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the narrator, who occasionally would come on stage to sing. I couldn’t understand half the words she was singing. Also, at times there were so many stunts and dances happening on stage that I couldn’t focus. The BF told me afterward that the show is a dream for someone with attention deficit disorder.
Some parents brought their children, and I actually enjoyed the fact that a boy about 6-years-old was seated behind me asking his dad if certain things were real and wondering out loud how the performers pulled off their tricks.
The show ends Sunday, and tickets range from $25 to $60. We were on the main level, but I think this is one of those shows where it doesn’t matter how high up or far back you are from the stage. Students can get tix for $20 if they get to the theatre two hours before the show.
If you’ve been to a Cirque show (or if you make it to Illumination), let me know what you thought.