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The internationally renowned French-Canadian circus troupe Cirque du Soleil (pronounced "serk dew so-LAY") of Montreal opened Dralion, its latest awe-inspiring high-tech live production, on March 13 at the brand-new Triangle Town Center, located near the intersection of Capital Blvd. and I-540 in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a dazzling debut, featuring astonishing acrobatics and an awesome lineup of high-flying acts performed by artists from 10 countries.
Dralion is a made-up word inspired by the show's two main symbols: the "dragon," which represents the East, and the "lion," which represents the West. Up to four of these mythical creatures at a time prance around the stage, delighting children of all ages. These fanciful Dralions — actually a pair of performers in a colorful two-person costume with a dragon's head and a lion's body — can even do a side flip off an upper story of the set, and land on their feet!
This 2-hour and 30-minute show (which includes a 25-minute intermission) is superbly staged by director Guy Caron. It debuted in Montreal in April 1999. Since then, more than two million spectators in 25 North American cities have oo-ed and ah-ed their way through countless shows performed under Cirque du Soleil's trademark blue-and-yellow 2,500-seat Grand Chapiteau (Big Top), with its central, circular revolving stage and Roman amphitheatre-like seating, which fans out 270 degrees.
This animated animalless circus has 55 performers, including 37 Chinese acrobats. With its striking futuristic set (by Stéphane Roy), elaborate eye-catching costumes (by François Barbeau), and ethereal musical soundtrack, Dralion combines the best of the pageantry and athleticism of ancient Chinese circus acts with the avant-garde approach made famous by the Cirque du Soleil.
A quartet of "Clowns" opened the March 13th performance with a variety of outrageous antics on stage and in the audience. The Chinese acrobats employed a "Teeterboard" to catapault themselves high in the air. First, one woman landed feet first on the shoulders of another. Then another woman landed on HER shoulders. Ultimately, the formation included five women, each standing on another's shoulders.
The acrobats' astonishing exhibitions of "Hoop Diving," "Single Handbalancing," and "Skipping Ropes" numbered among the evening's highlights. So, did the high-flying "Double Trapeze" and "Aerial Pas de Deux."
All in all, Cirque du Soleil more than lived up to the sky-high expectations of the opening-night audience. To describe the acts in more detail would be to rob future audiences of some of the delight of witnessing the unexpected and of seeing this troupe of world-class performers routinely execute seemingly impossible feats of agility.
Cirque du Soleil will continue to perform its unique brand of theatrical magic through April 5. Don't miss it.
Cirque du Soleil presents Dralion Tuesday-Thursday, March 18-19 and 25-27 and April 2-3, at 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, March 21-22 and 28-29 and April 4-5, at 4 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 23 and 30, at 1 and 5 p.m. in the parking lot of the Triangle Town Center, 5959 Triangle Town Blvd. (near the intersection of Capital Blvd. and I-540), Raleigh, North Carolina. $45-$65 adults and $31.50-$45.50 children aged 2-12 (except $40.50-$58.50 students aged 13-17 and seniors 65+ Tuesday-Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m. and VIP Packages ($165 for adults and $115 for children). 800/678-5440 (800/450-1480 for groups of 40 or more adults) or visit http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/CirqueDuSoleil/en/tickets/touring/dralion/raleigh.htm. http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/CirqueDuSoleil/en/shows/touring/dralion.