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Circus of the Sun

Cirque du Soleil is an experience like no other. For the last twenty years, we have periodically seen their big white tent near us along with their ads in airline magazines. Recently, Tarun surprised me with tickets to a Cirque show called "Volta". It's a story of extreme sports and a game show contestant called Waz who has lost his passion. As Waz reconnected with his inner self, Tarun and I were taken aback by the athleticism, courage, dexterity, and creative genius of the performers and their production teams.

It was hard to take pictures because the performers moved at light speed, but here are the somewhat legible ones.

Cirque is a Canadian company out of Quebec. It was started by Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste Croix. Laliberté was introduced to the circus by his parents as a youngster and later became a street performer or a "busker" - playing the accordion, stilt-walking and fire-eating - on the streets of Quebec. After going the conventional route with a job in a power plant, he opted to team with Ste Croix and a small group of buskers to entertain the people of Canada. In the initial years they were aided by grants from the Government of Canada and now Laliberté and Gilles Ste Croix have grown Cirque into a gigantic operation across five continents, employing thousands of people from 40 countries and an annual turnover of a billion dollars.

What I expected based on the bits of earlier media exposure was aerial acrobatics set to music. What I did not expect was a two-hour story and the variety in the performances. From the requisite clown to a moving stage to props of all kinds, the show delivered what every circus must while regaling us with surprises every few minutes. The act that scared, elated, and amazed us was a dancer who pulled up and swung around by a rope tied to her hair!! No kidding! A large bun on her hair was hooked to a rope. At first I was like, nah, no way! Then she lifted off the stage, contorting and spinning above us and my jaw dropped to my knees. I read that this act, called hair suspension, is very painful. It takes months to be able to lift and manage your weight off the ground.

Hair hanging originated in South America or China after aerialists discovered that a single strand of hair has incredible tensile strength - a full head of hair can hold up to 8,400 kg without damaging the follicles. I learn something new every day!!

We saw lighted jump rope acts with multiple people swinging and jumping simultaneously, high rope acrobats falling when you least expected them to, performers jumping through hoops forward and backward, trampoline artists leaping to the tops of high props as if they were walking on air, bicycle acrobats zooming on multiple half-pipes, and dancers mesmerizing us with mind-boggling choreography. Before going to Cirque, I had little idea of what the show would be like. Afterwards, I cannot stop thinking about the level of talent you need to have to perform at this level and the competitive nature of the business.

Plus, what's not to like about hair suspension or bicycles flipping in air. The kid in me loved going to the circus after three decades!

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