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.




BOOM

Just minutes earlier they had been perfectly balanced, upright, supported only by shoulders on shoulders; only she was upside-down. He had then hoisted her down with one arm, ever so gradually, like he was retrieving baggage from an overhead bin. To the hypnotic rhythm of a lone drum echoing throughout the famous blue and yellow Grand Chapiteau, or Big Top, tent, the couple had worked their way through a series of poses that would make even the most-avid yoga enthusiast squirm. I had discovered why Cirque du Soleil has spanned the globe with its popularity. I had discovered the magic that is Quidam.

Quidam, pronounced “key-dahm,” is a Latin word for an anonymous passerby, a nameless face in the crowd living lost.




Just another face in the crowd.

It is also the story of a young child’s fantasy. The act opens in a drab living room where the young girl, Zoe, is idly entertaining herself. Although she pleads with her parents for attention, she is largely ignored — her father buried behind a newspaper and her mother lost in thought over crochet. When a mysterious, headless, trench-coated stranger appears onstage, umbrella in one hand and an indigo bowler hat in the other, Zoe’s surroundings begin a magical transformation into a world of life and color. As she dons the bowler hat, she joins a world inhabited by characters named Boum Boum, Rabbit, The Target, Toto, and Ambrose. It is a world where every character is unique, where no one is lost among the masses.

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 Quebec in 1984 to nearly 3,000 employees, including 700 artists hailing from 40 different countries, staging 11 different shows around the world today.




Quidam is an international troupe..

The 50 artists that star in Quidam hail from 14 countries and the multi-ethnic background of the performers are reflected in the acts featured in Quidam: the Chinese yo-yos known as Diabolo, the German Wheel, Spanish Webs, the staple of American schoolyards, skipping ropes, and even Banquine, which is an Italian acrobatic tradition dating back to the middle ages featuring 17 Slavic acrobats.

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.




Why be Like everyone else?


In Banquine, the Slavic acrobats leapt and flipped and somersaulted through the air in perfectly synchronized movements with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of strength that had me amazed and flinching for fear of mid-air collisions at the same time.

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 California .

Visit Webbandstand.comCostume 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.