“Dralion” is among the more robust of Cirque du Soleil’s programs, and among the funniest — Guto Vasconcelos, Phillipe Aymard, Colin Gee and Gonzalo Munoz are the clowns who parody some of the acts in addition to inflicting mayhem on each other. Some of it is spectacular, especially in the double trapeze act of Han Yan, Zhu Sha, Zhou Chunmei, Wang Dongguo, Zhang Hongwei and Hao Desheng, whose moves appear designed not just around athletic prowess but mathematical possibilities. And some of it is plain beautiful, as when pas de deux aerialists Igor Arefiev and Colette Morrow rise and descend and swoop gracefully around the ring in one of ballet’s most poignant joys — freedom from Earth’s gravity.
“Dralion” is no different than when it made a 1999 tour stop in Santa Monica. Yet there’s still a lot to appreciate in how far the music and design team of Cirque du Soleil, not to mention the more than 55 performers, has blended a succession of acrobatic novelty acts into an art form that expands the possibilities of dance, theater and the circus.
One of the most consistent pleasures here is not just the unfolding sight of the human body in graceful fusion of strength and physical perfection, but the body set to music. As impressive as any of the sounds and spectacular light designs, it’s the human form and its amazing power of expression that gives “Dralion” and the Cirque du Soleil’s other programs their primary appeal.
Many of the acrobats’ acts are so old that Marco Polo’s Silk Road must have been littered with the broken bones of teeter-board aerialists who missed, or aging hoop divers who had fallen and couldn’t get up. The format isn’t exactly fresh, either. As described in the promo kit, the theme of “Harmony Among the Elements,” consisting of Air (Colette Morrow), Earth (Henriette Gbou) Water (Amrapali Ambegaokar) and Fire (Benjamin Pring) suggests the kind of vaporous uplift that makes you want to stay after school to petition for world peace.
Music and costumes evoke Third World cultures; harem pants, the American Indian Trickster dance, those hoopsters done up in Australian aboriginal body paint, Japanese drums and modern funkadelic supply diversity without bombast.
Cirque du Soleil is so unlike any other circus group that its only competition has been with itself. Much of “Dralion” has been seen elsewhere, tricked up in different ambient settings. You have to wonder what it would be like if this brilliant creative team set its mind to a phantasmal narrative classic, like Dante’s “Inferno,” Homer’s “The Odyssey” or “Orpheus and Eurydice.” The Cirque du Soleil revolutionized the circus. If the members put their minds to it, they could probably revolutionize theater, too.