Cirque du Soleil fans used to the explosive colors and dazzling sound of their shows like "Varekai" and "Dralion" that most recently came through San Diego can expect something a little bit different from "Quidam."
The upcoming show, which opens Jan. 19 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, still has at its core the incredible acrobatics and theatricality that made Cirque du Soleil famous around the world. But it also addresses some important social issues.
"Quidam" premiered back in 1996 and is making its way through its third North American tour. The show has evolved through the years, though many of the original artists have remained. The important thing is that the show remains faithful to the vision of the creators, said Artistic Director Nicolette Naum. She said the creators were interested in presenting a relevant show about what they saw happening in their world -- ideas that remain timely.
"The creators looked at how do they perceive the world? What were their thoughts on the economy, the way society was evolving? And in this evolution, what was touching them the most, what did they question?" Naum said. "At that time, it was facing the fact that in the 21st century, with everything there is available to enter into contact with others, the process of communication is so developed. But at same time, solitude is very, very present. This was the paradox."
The show reflects this idea of isolation and alienation in the costumes and staging, she said. The set design is relatively simple, and many characters are dressed all in white, all gray, or in tattered clothing. The nameless, faceless characters in white represent anonymous individuals on the street whom we will likely never know.
"They are representative of the way we live in society. Everyone goes in their own direction, passing by and not necessarily noticing someone right beside you," said Naum.
The theme is also reflected in the title itself. "Quidam" is a Latin word meaning "anonymous passerby." The headless character with a bowler hat and umbrella seems to have stepped right out of a Magritte painting. He is anonymous -- both everyone and no one.
"Some people say 'Quidam' is dark. But myself, I never perceived it like that," Naum said. "In 'Quidam' you don't have the color, for example, the bright, explosive colors. The acts are going to bring the public back into themselves -- it's more introspective. The emotions are very delicate, intimate emotions."
Like all Cirque du Soleil productions, "Quidam" has a narrative thread that runs throughout, but it's loose enough to be open to interpretation. Each audience member will likely walk away with a different understanding, said Naum, which is exactly what the creators intended.
The show opens in a living room, with a mother and father sitting apart. On the floor, a little girl sits bored and unhappy. They are together physically, but there is no connection. The girl's universe is transformed when the Quidam character enters and gives her his hat, which seems to open the door to magic, imagination and dreams in a series of circus acts.
A group of artists fly over the stage suspended by ropes that they weave into spider-like webs. A woman perched on balancing canes moves elegantly through a series of precarious, increasingly intricate positions. A man tumbles nonchalantly in a German wheel. An aerial contortionist is cradled high in the air by a single column of red fabric. Four tiny figures juggle tops on strings. A child's simple game of jump rope is transformed into a complex circus act.
There are many other acts, including the famous Cirque clowns. "Quidam" also presents what Naum described as "one of the most beautiful shows created at Cirque," the Banquine. Fifteen acrobats form human pyramids with perfectly synchronized movements.
"The choreography brings art into a dance piece," she said of the act. "There's no rig or props, just a human force. This is what creates the power of Cirque. All of the elements -- music, lights, costumes, set -- all are equivalent.
"The stage is a sacred place," she added, "and every element is crucial to the whole."
Organization: Cirque du Soleil
Dates: Jan. 19 through Feb. 26
Show times: Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.
Location: Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar
More information: (800) 678-5440, www.cirquedusoleil.com
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