Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity, A review of sorts - that yellow bastard

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August 20th, 2003

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2003.0820.0109::Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity, A review of sorts
Having never seen what I imagine is a standard topless showcase in Las Vegas, I cannot say definitively, but Zumanity is certainly one of the hottest shows I've ever seen, if not the hottest show ever (and that's considering a few years of going to strip clubs not infrequently).

My first encounter with Zumanity was in April sometime, when I saw this billboard on the outside of New York, New York Casino. Of course, I was intrigued, and my subsequent investigations online brought me to Zumanity's official website.

So when I learned that everyone was planning a trip to Vegas for the APA national championship in August, I was overjoyed. I generally never miss a chance to catch Cirque du Soleil--since my first trip to Vegas some three years ago when I caught Mystére, I've been quite a Cirque du Soleil addict--I went to Biloxi specifically to watch Alegria, and got local tickets to Dralion and Varekai. My biggest regret of my last trip to Vegas wasn't that I dropped something like $300.00 gambling, but that I stayed up too late the night before O and was too tired to stay completely alert during the show.

With that in mind, I've always seen snippets of a sexuality/innocence dichotomy in Cirque du Soleil. Although Mystére is very much an all-ages show, Elena Lev, the hula hoop girl of Alegria appears like a young girl in her act, but her act imbues her with a strong sense of femininity. Several players of O frolic about, wet in their underclothes. The "Ballare" Aerial sequence of Dralion emphasizes romantic love, but in a pure, somewhat chaste sense.

A feeling of Victorian propriety pervades these shows, something that's altogether absent from Zumanity. Zumanity is all about confronting desire, and exploring it. Our emcee for the evening is a throaty-voiced drag queen, and she introduces the players--an eclectic bunch of dancers, contortionists, acrobats, and hunks. For the most part, the show has your standard Cirque du Soleil fare--there's the usual aerial show and the contortion act--but the atmosphere is one that exudes sex and sensuality.

One of the first acts of the show, the contortionists of Zumanity borrow a chapter from that other show in Vegas, O. From the center of the stage, a small goblet of a pool presents two young girls. After removing their nightgowns, they dive into the pool and swim about one another, rising from the water to bend and shift and laugh and kick the water. They touch one another softly, and, like a playful lover, plunge back into the wetness in hide-and-seek.

From this somewhat innocent beginning, however, the show takes a winding road through sensuality. During one sequence, where two perfectly-bodied men perform an acrobatic push-pull dance of love-hate, a topless figure emerges from the background stage shrouded in windblown tubes of sheer fabric. After flirting with the girls sitting next to me, one of the performers whispers to me, "Her name is Sophie. Isn't she beautiful?"

"She's incredible," I reply, as one tube falls away. And she was, distracting me as the two men end up kissing after their tango of sorts.

The show is not without humor--prior to opening, a troupe of four, dressed like Quakers, attempt to dissuade us from partaking of the Devil's lust. Throughout the show they interject sequences where their frigid dispositions melt just a little, until their own finale where they dance almost naked before us.

Our drag queen emcee, as well, has a healthy sense of snark, playfully passing jokes on audience members, and remarking on how one girl's "tits are ready to explode."

But humor isn't the true draw of Zumanity. In another sequence, two latex-clad women light torches from a flame in the middle of the stage, and draw them across each other's skin. A man and a woman balance precariously upon one other. I watch background performers, clad in revealing lingerie, caress and paw at one another in passionate embraces.

For a while I watch the show and am simply drawn in with the sex appeal. Sitting on the tapered edge of Cirque's usual teardrop-shaped stage, I spend much of the show splitting my eyes between the main act and the background performers. I'm not quite sure my unique perspective on the show helps the show's sexual theme--from my vantage point, the show is far more intimate, more personal.

Zumanity's twist on the usual aerial act is to portray a chase of sorts--a dwarf man, muscled and fit, yearns for the tall statuesque woman flying about on the white fabric. He chases her, and sometimes, he catches her. But somehow, the air takes her away again, and he must pursue, again and again. Again, I split my time between main act and the background performers during this sequence, dancing about one another. At one point, I look straight in front of me, and a tall, slender, short-haired blonde, bare-breasted and draped in sheer white, lightly strokes the chest of the man under her, as she props herself up above him on one arm.

It is the kind of quiet moment reserved for lovers and lovers alone. Envy and loneliness overtakes me in that moment, and suddenly I am regretting my coming to see this show without a lover. Everything from that point on--the playful flirting one of the performers did with a lovely girl two seats down from me, the two girls lighting each other on fire on stage, the orgiastic circle of performers in one of the closing acts, and the tiny, tickling kisses one performer places upon the violinist's neck as she plays a solo for the main act--all of it overwhelms my sense of being alone.

When the show suddenly ends, I am both depressed and relieved. The show is less about titillation and more about a sensual intimacy, and is best viewed with a lover in wait for later in the evening.
Current Mood: [mood icon] lonely

5 comments | Leave a comment )


vudiddy::2003.08.20.07:22 am
[User Picture]I'm not reading your review, since I'm going to see it on the 29th and want to be completely surprised. Remind me, and I'll compare my thoughts on the show after I return from my six-states-in-seven-days vacation.
galaxyg::2003.11.15.12:22 am
[User Picture]Thanks for the review! Its been hard finding a review from an actual viewer online. I'm considering whether to see Zumanity or Blue Man Group. Yes, two totally different shows, but can't decide which one!!!
thepeopleseason::2003.11.19.10:55 am
[User Picture]That is a tough decision--Being addicted to both BMG and Cirque, it took me two different trips to Las Vegas to catch both shows.

I think the one to decide on really depends on who you're going with (I saw Blue Man with my mother, for example). If, however, you're going with a lover, then, by all means, go see Zumanity. Since Blue Man Group has at least four shows in Chicago, Boston, New York, and Vegas (not to mention the rock concert tour), I'd say make the trip to see Zumanity especially.

Of course, I plan to go back to Vegas and see the other shows, too.
-anon-::2003.11.27.06:27 pm::Zumanity
Thanks for the “Zumanity” review. I have read several but none as eloquent and informative as yours. Since my wife and I are fans of both Cirque and erotica, “Zumanity” sounds like one we just can’t miss. I was wondering if the music was as central to the show as it is in the rest of Cirquedom. After my wife and kids, music is the most important thing in my life and I am a real fan of the music of Cirque du Soleil. You may be interested in reading an essay I wrote concerning our first experience with Cirque music at:

thepeopleseason::2003.11.30.12:41 pm::Re: Zumanity
[User Picture]The music itself is quite a departure from the usual Cirque show--a sort of amalgam of jazz/funk/industrial/showtunes. While I would say that I tend to prefer the more lyrical/orchestral music (like you, I think "O" is my favorite), but Zumanity's music does work well within the show itself, and unlike other shows, the some of the lyrics are in English and work to forward the mood.

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