BWW Reviews: Cirque du Soleil's AMALUNA Dazzles at National Harbor
Cirque du Soleil celebrates 30 years of spectacular circus arts this year with the presentation of the first ever majority female performance ensemble. Directed by renowned director, Diane Paulus, AMALUNA features a 70% female company of astonishingly skilled circus artists.
Drawing upon Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, the narrative through-line of AMALUNA, as articulated in the production's literature, revolves around a mythical island ruled by goddesses and governed by the cycles of the moon. To quote from the literature, "Queen Prospera summons the women of the island to participate in a coming-of-age ceremony for her daughter, Miranda. The passage to womanhood begins when a storm conjured up by Prospera brings a group of castaways to the island, and Miranda meets a brave young suitor. In the awakening of their affection for one another, Miranda and Romeo must endure a series of trials that teach them both about trust, harmony, balance and inner strength." And indeed, while I am not an authority on previous Cirque productions, even without the program notes available in the souvenir booklet, AmaL?na's narrative appeared more coherent and sustained that other productions.
Julia Mykhailova and Evgeny Kurkin played the fate-crossed lovers, and the dynamism between them sparkled. Each had interludes to showcase as well their extraordinary strength and acrobatic acumen. Mykhailov executed a fascinating display of balance, strength, agility, and grace on the rim of the production's central set piece---a gigantic, transparent water bowl signifying birth, death, and transformation. Kurkin wowed as well in his seemingly effortless acrobatics on a hanging Chinese pole on which he ultimately ascended into the dizzying heights.
Filled with glorious and defiantly strong women characters, AMALUNA again and again showcased women performers of impeccable strength, precision, musicality, and grace. Commanded by the resonate-voiced Julie McIness's Prospera, the evening burst forth with physics-defying act after act, from the the Icarians and Water Meteors (Xinyue Chen, Xhao Qian, Gaoyun Zhao, Yanling Zheng, Min Zhuang, Yulun Wang, Lei Fu, Sijiang Lui) to Storm (Vanessa Fournier, Maxim Panteleenko), the Peacock Dance (Amber J. Merrick) and Cerceau (Andréanne Nadeau), and the Amazons on uneven bars (Karina Brooks, Lindsey Bruck-Ayotte, Laura-Ann Chong, Amara DeFilippo, Melissa Fernandez, Summer Hubbard, Melanie Sinclair, Brittany Urbain) to the aerial straps performance (Virginie Canovas, Kylee Maupoux, Marina Tomanova). Among the most riveting of feats was the meticulously assembled mobile of bone-like structures assembled by Balance Goddess Lili Chao-Rigolo to create a massive Calder-like construction that manifested the laws of physics before our very eyes.
AMALUNA's male performers dazzled as well, and the athletic masculinity of the teeterboard act after intermission delighted (Aaron Charbonneau, Joe McAdam, Julian Moreno Granda, Olivier Sabourin). As Cali (as in Caliban), Viktor Kee charmed and impressed throughout the night with his fluid theatrics and flawless juggling.