I was stunned to silence. While 2,600 other spectators around me erupted into whistles and thunderous applause, I found myself searching my lap for my jaw. There is no way that the spectacle I had just seen was possible. There was no way that the wiry duo onstage (Jerome Le Baut and Asa Kubiak, to be precise) could have accomplished the feats of strength and balance I had just witnesses without defying gravity.
Quidam, pronounced “key-dahm,” is a Latin word for an anonymous passerby, a nameless face in the crowd living lost.
The world of Quidam is director Franco Dragone’s latest creation in a series of Cirque du Soleil productions that have wowed more than 50 million spectators in almost 100 cities across four continents. Cirque du Soleil’s success is based on its ability to transcend the circus, to create productions featuring aesthetics and theatrics and humor without compromising the fact that the main focus of each performance is to display the stunning individual skill possessed by its performers. This success has seen it expand from a modest troupe of roughly 20 performers in
My distant memories of circuses consist of hay-strewn floors, red-nose clowns, an elephant, and an inescapable smell of manure. Although Quidam features its own crazy clowns, Toto and Ambrose, it is a far cry from the bearded lady and dancing bear clichés. I admit I expected more theater than acrobatics, but I was pleasantly surprised that I was continually amazed blown away, actually by the skill and precision with which the artist performed.
During Aerial Contortions in Silk, a lithe and limber artist twisted and slinked her way up and down a column of red fabric stretching from the ceiling to the floor. Set to a haunting score, at times she looked serpentine, her body intertwining and stretching with the translucent fabric.
Even the artists performing in Skipping Ropes captivated the audience with a choreographed effort that at times featured 20 acrobats simultaneously skipping to 8 separate ropes. It is a testament to the magic of Cirque du Soleil that a simple pastime like skipping rope could become so mesmerizing.
The costumes of Quidam are as creative and fascinating as the artists themselves. They feature materials such as leather, jute, linen, crepe, wool, velvet, lycra, 42 varieties of silk and 30 varieties of cotton from England, France, Italy, and
Costume Designer Dominique Lemieux’s philosophy is to complement the creative brilliance of the performers while enhancing the visual effects of their movements. During Jerome Le Baut and Asa Kubiak’s Statue Vis Versa, for example, the costumes are no more than skin-tight lycra body suits in flesh tone. The effect is that every rippling muscle and taught tendon is on display throughout the act.
The performers are not hidden behind gaudy costumes and therefore the audience’s attention is not distracted from the artists’ gracefulness and strength. On the contrary, in Banquine, the Slavic performers appear in what are closer to ragged street clothes, portraying a more workmanlike demeanor, a rugged strength that is exhibited in each shoulder stand, throw and catch. As Lemieux explains, “We are closer to traditional circus, in which the humanity of the artists is revealed.”
The cumulative effect of acrobatic talent, artistic grace and the vibrant costumes in Quidam is two-plus hours of pure entertainment. After the artists had retreated behind a red curtain bringing the evening to a close, the headless stranger appeared again on an empty, silent stage. Bowler hat in hand again, he offered it, almost imploringly to the audience, inviting anyone to join in the magical world we had just witnessed. I had fleeting temptations to leave my seat in the crowd, to don the hat and no longer be a Quidam, but I was emotionally drained, and running off with the circus would’ve taken just too much energy.
By Misha Troyan, San Diego Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.