Come One, Come All . . .
By Tamara Vallejos
These performers fly through the air with the greatest of ease—and they’re now at Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank Arena as part of Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion, one of the company’s signature productions, which merges ancient Eastern tradition with Western contemporary circus.
“Dralion is really unique, and some of the acts you see in it are not seen in any of our other productions,” says publicist Julie Desmarais. “It’s Chinese tradition and acrobatics with Cirque du Soleil’s approach.”
The multicultural influence begins right away, with the title of the show, a combination of the words “dragon,” symbolizing the East, and “lion,” symbolizing the West. Then there are the performers themselves: 64 acrobats, aerialists and other artists make up the cast, representing over a dozen countries—including China, which has 26 performers in Dralion, lending an air of authenticity to a show inspired by China’s 3,000-year-old acrobatic tradition.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Cirque du Soleil production if every aspect of the show wasn’t impressive. Sure, the performers take center stage, with their intricate choreography through aerial hoops, or their skills at balancing on chairs—or other human bodies—but the technical aspects of taking such a show on the road deserves its own round of applause.
Prior to Dralion heading on an arena tour in 2010, the show had spent a decade touring the world following the circus tradition of appearing under the big top, or proper circus tents. But that required huge amounts of time to set up, and the fast pace of an arena tour, with a new city every week for ten weeks at a time, required lots of changes.
“We needed to [scale down] the size of the show without diminishing the quality of the show,” explains Desmarais. “For example, the big top show would require 60 or 70 trucks to transport it from city to city. But for arenas, we travel with 18 semi-trucks.” And whereas Dralion’s previous incarnation took 10 days to set up and three days to load out, the arena version is ready to go in 12 hours and packed up in three.
That includes packing up over a thousand costumes pieces—many of which are laundered in washers and dryers that travel with the show—that consist of over 16,000 feet of fabric and 300 pairs of shoes. Bright yellow furry dralion characters come to life on the Cirque stage, along with characters like Gaya (Earth), who drips with multi-colored fringe, and Yao (fire), with his red and orange robes and golden accents.
And for those who may have seen Dralion in its previous incarnation, Desmarais notes that this arena restaging includes a few new acts, such as one that takes on the diabolo, or Chinese yo-yo, and transforms the children’s game into a quickly-maneuvering spectacle. Cirque du Soleil shows evolve in their lifetime, Desmarais explains, out of necessity like in this big top-to-arena reconfiguration, but also because the performers themselves develop in new ways.
“Performers will constantly work on new skills on their apparatus,” she says. “And the show is live, so between yesterday and tonight, there may be some slight changes. It does evolve.”
Dralion is in town for only through Sunday, before packing up its various semi-trucks and heading off to Long Beach, where it opens just four days later.
Cirque du Soleil presents Dralion at Citizens Business Bank Arena, 4000 E. Ontario Center Parkway, Ontario, (909) 244-5600; cbbankarena.com. Oct. 24-28.