Cirque du Soleil is at its best with its new show, Luzia
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Photo Credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil 

Luzia, the 38th original show from Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil, premiered under the Big Top in Montreal’s Old Port and proved a great off-festival highlight for 2016 Montreal Complètement Cirque Festival goers.

The name ‘Luzia’ was created by combining two Spanish words ‘luz’ (meaning light) and ‘lluvia’ (meaning rain), and the interplay of light and water forms a central thematic element throughout the show. Many of the circus acts in Luzia take place in water. The astonishing straps act from Benjamin Courtnay rises to a height of around 12 metres before twisting and plummeting through falling water into a small pool of water inset into the stage beneath, and the roue cyr act, which features an extended solo from Angelica Bongiovanni, spins through falling water in a display of wonderful lyrical artistry and athleticism. At one point in the show, a 15 metre high curtain of falling water, that turns through 180 degrees, creates shimmering patterns of blossoms and vines in mid air in different densities of falling water as it moves across the stage.

Water also has a role in one of the clowning sections, which plays on the music hall clowning trope of ‘It’s behind you’, as the clown attempts to fill a cup from the falling water only to have the water stop falling whenever he faces towards it, and begin to fall again only when he turns his back. Fool Koller, who plays the central character of the clown, is genuinely funny with a gentle surreal presence and perfect timing.

Luzia draws on the mythology and culture of Mexico as a source of inspiration and the show features a sizzling colour palette of vibrant pinks, oranges and yellows; wonderful Mexican-inspired music; surreal silver headdresses in the form of crocodiles, insects, birds and fish; and a huge orange circular curtain referencing the Mexican art of paper cutting. Although Luzia draws on the culture of Mexico, the show also takes artistic license by introducing elements from other cultures such as a classical Indian vocalist into the sound palette, but the sound sits so perfectly with the mood  that in a real sense the show celebrates not only the culture and creativity of Mexico but also the world beyond. In the same way, gigantic puppets of a horse and a jaguar can be seen as celebrating the history and mythology of Mexico, but also the history and mythology of circus with the enormous, spectacular, puppets referencing the live performing animals of traditional circus.

Luzia reveals the masterful hand and commedia del’ arte sensibility of director Daniele Finzi Pasca who devised the show with his creative partner Julie Hamelin Finzi. There is a distinctive Finzi Pasca moment towards the end of the show, when people are seated, feasting, around a long table laden with fruits and delicacies, and for just a moment, as the clown walks amongst them, this moment freezes. The clown’s gaze highlights the transience of physical enjoyment and by implication the transience of life. As the clown turns towards the audience and gazes at the spectators, a shiver of momento mori moves through the crowd for just a moment before the fiesta, and the show itself, resumes.

Luzia is stunningly beautiful, funny, and at times genuinely moving. Combining rare artistry, athleticism, fine clowning, wonderful music and extraordinary puppetry, this show is a real joy.

Catch Luzia if you can!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cirque du Soleil
Guy Laliberté – Guide
Jean-François Bouchard – Creative Guide
Daniele Finzi Pasca – Co-writer and Director
Patricia Ruel – Director of Creation
Julie Hamelin Finzi – Co-writer
Eugenio Caballero – Set and Props Designer
Giovanna Buzzi – Costume Designer
Simon Carpentier – Composer and Musical Director
Edesia Moreno Barata – Acrobatic Choreographer
Debra Brown – Acrobatic Choreographer
Sylvia Gertrúdix González – Acrobatic Choreographer
Max Humphries – Puppet Designer
Martin Labrecque – Lighting Designer
Johnny Ranger – Projection Designer
Jacques Boucher – Sound Designer
Philippe Aubertin – Acrobatic Performance Designer
Danny Zen – Acrobatic Equipment and Rigging Designer
Maryse Gosselin – Makeup Designer

17 July, Big Top, Montreal Old Port

Katie Lavers
About the Author
Dr. Katie Lavers is a writer, director, producer and researcher based in Sydney.