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2006-09-24

In which I realize what an old fuddy-duddy I’ve become…

Geoff and I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo this past weekend. Overall I enjoyed the show. The music was beautiful. The costumes were stunning. The performers were talented. The tone was whimsical.(1) It was a lovely show.

There were, however, certain parts of the show that I found disturbing, specifically parts were misogynistic, infantilizing, and, no less disturbing, bad examples of proper dental care. I’ll explain. But let me give a little background on these types of shows.

All Cirque shows I’ve seen (2) run off the same basic template: There is a first entrance number, which gives you a taste of the music and a glimpse of the fabulous characters to come. Then a Big Act performs. The Big Acts are performers such as tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, tumblers, people who swing/hang from things suspended high above the stage, etc. The Big Acts are mixed in with smaller, transitional acts, the Small Acts. The Small Acts are fillers that don’t involve a lot of props and are meant for either comic relief or advancing the plot of the show. (3) Then the show concludes with a big finale, usually including all the characters we met throughout the show. To recap:

Cirque show = entrance number + A + big finale,
where A = {Big Act, small act, Big Act, … small act}

Got it? Good. Moving on.

My problems with the show started with the first Big Act. The Act consisted of four girls in “pajamas” contorting themselves in and around giant chandeliers, which were raised and lowered through the act. The athletic prowess of these women was amazing. They were strong and flexible and managed not to plummet to the stage – all very cool. The costuming, however, was atrocious:

See this woman hanging high above the stage? Impressive, right? See what she’s wearing while hanging high above the stage? Ridiculous, right?

These women are supposed to be wearing “pajamas.” Does any woman wear pajamas that look like that (when she is not modeling for a Victoria’s Secret catalog, I mean)? The mid-drift bearing outfit? The thigh-high stockings? Seriously?

The thing that makes it most ridiculous is that the costume is actually one piece with flesh-colored sleeves, mid-drift, and upper thighs. This makes perfect sense because no one in their right mind would be sliding around on metal bars with their bare flesh. We all remember the monkey bars in the summer when we were kids right? Everyone knows that bare flesh will stick to metal with just the slightest bit of sweat.

Not only do these women have to intersperse their feats of strength with seductive posing and writing around in a strip-club-esque cage, but they also have to do it while pretending to be half naked. Obviously we, the audience, can’t just be impressed with the women’s skills, we need to be turned on as well.

And don’t even get me started about the girl-on-girl action suggested by the two women together in the ring or about the fact that the entire act takes place around some supposedly dead man in a bed – ‘cause that’s just too easy. Women’s Studies 101, anybody?

Enough about that Act. This diary entry is getting way too serious. Hey, I think the entry could use a little levity. Perhaps I’ll tell you about a funny Small Act from the show:

Picture the stage set with a giant man wielding an oversized golf club, accompanied by a little person acting as the caddy. Now the golfer takes his big club (4) and walks up to the green patch of grass on the stage. Up pops his “ball,” which is a woman’s head wearing a bathing cap made to look like the dimples in a golf ball.

Just let that sink in – a woman’s head is the golf ball.

So here’s the bit: the “ball” tries to outsmart the big golfer so as not to get hit. She ducks into the stage as he swings. She moves from side to side as he swings, etc. All the while the “ball” is talking in this high pitch voice.(5)

Part of me wants to say “Rock on girl! You outsmart that golfer,” but then the rest of me says, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? THE WOMAN’S HEAD IS A GOLF BALL!”

Okay, that didn’t seem to lighten the ranting tone of this entry. Maybe it’s a funnier sketch if you see it in person?!?

Do you want to hear about the part in the show where they hooked up a bunch of large helium balloons to a little person and tossed her around the audience like a beach ball? Haven’t circuses (circi?) and their audiences evolved beyond humor involving differences in people? I mean there was no “bearded lady,” why all the “midget” hate? Can’t we all get along people? Do I need to link to an audio file of “It’s a small world?” Because I will, if need be.

All this mental ranting during the show made me think I’ve lost the little girl in me. Am I ruining the illusion? Is it bad to be enjoying the show while at the same time performing a scathing meta-analysis about whether or not I should be enjoying the show? I don’t know.

I wonder if I’m getting old or just surly? I know I have “elderly” tendencies: I go to bed before 10 pm. I have expressed concern, on more than one occasion, about both the death of the English language, and the tone-deafness that is likely to afflict these kids listening to their music so loudly. I recently ordered butter pecan ice cream. I complain about my aching back. But I can’t decide if my kvetching about the show was a sign of getting old or a sign of my youthful indignation still hanging on.

I did have, however, one truly unmistakable fuddy-duddy moment during the show. We were watching the man and woman team of performers who swing around in different positions/combinations from a rope suspended from the ceiling. One of the big moves in the act involved the woman hanging from the man who was hanging from the rope by only a strap in his mouth. Everyone was clapping at this amazing feat and I turned to Geoff and said, “Do you think his dentist knows about this because that can’t be good for his dental health?”

Next time I see I show, I’ll probably qualify for the senior citizen discount.

(1) Unlike La Nouba, which we saw a couple of years ago, Corteo was funny and light. La Nouba was creepy and dark. I had visions of that white face for weeks. Although I was incredibly drunk at the time of the show. And I fell asleep during the performance. And waking up to that freaky music and scenery was not fun. So I’d say my review of that particular show might be a bit skewed.

(2) I’ve only seen two other shows. I’m by no means an “expert,” but I’ve seen a large enough sample to feel confident in my ability to draw appropriate inferences about the larger population. (See all those semesters of statistics come in handy!)

(3) When I mention the “plot” of the show keep in mind that Cirque shows have plots like porn films have plots i.e. a vague storyline, which rarely, if ever, cohesively ties together the random mishmash of numbers/sex acts in the piece.

(4) Let’s just let that one go, shall we?

(5) I’m not a duffer myself, so maybe that’s how golf balls sound?!?