Saltimbanco acrobats rehearse the act called Russian Swing, notably one of the most dangerous acts of the show, where performers are catapulted up to 12 meters in the air where they execute breathtaking aerial jumps before falling either on their feet, on the shoulders of their partners or atop a human pyramid; (right) performance night
Eddie is a jester, a clown, symbolic of the child within us all. Eddie finds adventure in his own imagination and moves freely between our world and the world of Saltimbanco
What is remarkable about Saltimbanco, a signature production of the world-famous entertainment group Cirque du Soleil, is its intensely positive vibe.
One’s senses are almost immediately engulfed in living color: the stage, “34 meters long (110 feet) by 20 meters wide (65 feet),” is a sloping creation of vividly colored patterns, above which is suspended a “canopy of metal rings,” through which “light filters through it as it would through the branches of a tree or through a stained glass window,” as described in a Cirque statement.
Although this touring show is set up in an arena rather than the traditional “Big Top” or Grand Chapiteau, the company manages to create the same intimate, magical ambience. The set-up is distinctly Cirque du Soleil, and no matter how vast the venue, all eyes remain fixed on the splashes of color and breathtaking movements on stage throughout the show.
And what makes Saltimbanco different and a must-see for all lovers of entertainment is its ability to conjure fun and laughter even as it evokes the same childlike wonder as all Cirque du Soleil shows do.
What to look forward to
It goes without saying that this being “classic Cirque at its best,” Saltimbanco is replete with amazing acts, acrobatics and athleticism whether in solo numbers or as an ensemble performance.
The show’s “visual vocabulary” is described as “baroque,” as evidenced in the set design, which creates “a fanciful, dreamlike world, an imaginary city where diversity is a cause for hope.”
The show’s original music, created by René Dupéré, is described as “ethereal yet baroque, rhythmic and cosmopolitan.” Although “the lyrics that accompany the Saltimbanco music are an invented language created specifically for the show and derived from various languages including Arabic, Swedish and German,” the songs strike a chord in the viewer’s emotions, the pathos and joys of life reflected in the music.
Two singers and five musicians perform live during every performance. One of them is the guitar-playing Fil-Canadian named Adrian Andres, whose mom is from Pampanga and whose dad is from Batangas. Watch out for him in the Manila performances.
Aside from the acts, the costumes are eye candy that could set fashion trends in the city. According to the company statement, the costumes created by costume designer Dominique Lemieux were based on the premise of rising urban migration where people congregate in cities, which are “networks of inter-relationships,” as well as “networks of paradoxes.” This mindset gave rein to a style statement decidedly Saltimbanco — that is, “brightly colored, eccentric and eclectic.”
And, of course, the acts will surely captivate: “from the seemingly impossible balancing, jumping and spinning during the Chinese Poles or the Russian Swing, to the gravity-defying Bungees and Trapeze, the crowd-pleasing Juggling and Acrobatic Bicycle, to the celebrated and very unique Clowns.”
“There is no storyline to the show,” clarifies Saltimbanco artistic director Neelanthi Vadivel in an interview with Philippine media recently. “It’s about the inhabitants of Saltimbanco, this fantastical city, and how they evolve. These are eclectic, wild characters with different personalities.”
Saltimbanco, further explains Max Charbonneau, Saltimbanco publicist, is “all about colors… a story of evolution, of bringing people together. You must remember the show was created in the 1990s context, when people were moving from countryside to cities…mega-cities. It is colorful, fun, alive, full of energy.”
The show premiered in 1992 and toured many countries before being transformed into an arena show in 2007. The main difference between arena shows versus big top shows apparently goes on behind the stage.
Saltimbanco, it further states, is “characteristic and classic Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the urban fabric of the metropolis and its colorful inhabitants. Saltimbanco — from the Italian ‘saltare in banco,’ which literally means ‘to jump on a bench’ — features an international cast of 51 performers and musicians from more than 20 different countries.”
Perhaps the reason Saltimbanco is Cirque du Soleil’s “longest-running touring show,” seen by over “11.5 million” fans to date, is that it speaks to the heart and offers a universal message relevant today as it was in the ’90s.
“This show has grown like a child. You could say it’s a completely different show now, but the initial concept of multiculturalism, harmony between cultures, was important 20 years ago and it’s even more important now,” Neelanthi says.
Just as Saltimbanco is essentially Cirque du Soleil for the mere fact that the company that gave birth to it is as multicultural as its theme, the show tells its millions of audiences around the world that “harmony between cultures” is possible; and that with “tolerance of differences, acceptance of differences and celebration of differences,” as the show’s artistic director aptly points out, the world can, indeed, be a better place.
Saltimbanco comes to Manila from Aug. 9 to 19, 2012. Performances will be at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. Tickets, priced from P1,200 for general admission to P10,500 for VIP seats with applicable discounts for seniors and persons with disabilities, are now available at www.cirquedusoleil.com/saltimbanco, www.hoopla.ph or www.smtickets.com or by calling 320-1111 or 470-2222. Tickets can also be purchased at the Manila Hotel concierge and at the box-office (starting Aug. 9). Early purchase is advised to reserve the best available seats.