Cirque Du Soleil's Totem Comes to Town
BY ANN GREER
Cirque du Soleil’s Totem: Not your typical three-ring circus
Washington will bear witness to the evolution of man—replete with an array of international performers, physical prowess, and spectacular stage effects—when Cirque du Soleil’s Totem opens at National Harbor on August 15. Staged under Cirque’s swirling blue- and yellow-striped big top, the production chronicles the ages-long journey of humans from watery amphibians to modern-day explorers reaching for the stars through flight.
The show premiered in Montreal in April 2010, and this run marks its first stop in DC. Totem artistic director Tim Smith says the show’s subject matter and theme, as the name suggests, “is about the need to progress [in an] upward direction.” The combination of performances and visual elements, he adds, “allow audiences to paint their own pictures. The images are incredible, and I’m stunned every time I see them.”
Smith manages the complex technical requirements of the show, as well as the 52 international performers and 15 supporting staff members. What sets Totem apart from Cirque du Soleil productions with longer histories, he notes, is the team’s creative use of the most advanced technology. The entire stage serves as a projection surface; elements from water and ice to stars and space envelop the action, and cameras that detect performers’ positions make the projected surfaces move along with them. And in a bit of technological wizardry unique to Cirque that premieres in this production, a juggler uses balls embedded with numerous LED lights, operated remotely from a lighting board, that coordinate with the lighting onstage, the music, and the juggler’s movements.
Smith is particularly proud of an especially beautiful piece in the show, one never seen before by Cirque audiences: a routine performed by a Mongolian troupe that rides atop eight-foot-tall unicycles, backed by original world music. Two other acts that are sure to wow DC audiences are a trio that work on rings suspended 42 feet in the air, and a Russian acrobat troupe that balances on bars about six inches wide as the acrobats are thrown 35 feet into the air.
If you can’t wait for Totem to take in a Cirque du Soleil production, book your tickets now for Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, which stops at the Verizon Center from July 13 to 15. The King of Pop’s music and choreography take center stage with more than 60 international dancers, musicians, and acrobats in a show that promises to unlock the secrets of Jackson’s mysterious world.
photography courtesy of cirque du soleil
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.