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The Arts
September 20-26, 2006

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Cirque du Soleil

Wave Action: The costumes seem to have lives of their own in Cirque du Soleil's 'Delirium.'

A Bigger Tent for Cirque

Cirque du Soleil's 'Delirium' expands to fill up HP Pavilion with theatrical performance of favorite Cirque songs

By Yoshi Kato

TO FANS of Cirque du Soleil and its boutique-production aesthetic, the prospect of its first-ever Delirium concert tour being presented in hockey arenas must have been akin to discovering that one's favorite sparkling wine is now available at Burger King's self-serve beverage stations.

But the musical event, which makes a stop for four shows this Friday through Sunday at the HP Pavilion, still manages to maintain the trademark Cirque style and is not without precedent, explains Carmen Ruest, director of creation for the troupe.

"Cirque du Soleil started 22 years ago. Delirium is our 17th production, and all creations of Cirque always have original music composed which is played live," Ruest explains. "So doing a show about music was something almost normal.

"But the way we did Delirium is completely, like, a new type of creation for us," she continues, talking to me by phone from Cirque's offices in Montreal.

The typical MO for a traveling Cirque du Soleil show is for a touring company to come to town, set up its tents locally for a few weeks and present a show which offers a take on the circus tradition that both harks back to the form's roots and reflects a New Wave, 21st-century sensibility. Animals aren't part of the shows, which feature a through-plotline and a variety of routines ranging from trapeze to contortion to clowning.

Delirium, in turn, will be presented in arenas, with a two-sided stage sitting in the middle. The stage, a capacious 130 feet long by 40 feet wide, divides the venue in half and is accompanied by the equivalent of four IMAX screens' worth of video displays, Ruest explains.

"It was a bit of a challenge for us to bring a show into an arena, because we're touring normally in big top, which is 2,500 seats," she says. "And even at our resident shows in Vegas or Orlando, it's not more than 3,000 seats." The capacity in San Jose will be 10,700.

"So the goal was to somehow re-create in a big venue the intimacy of the big top," she notes. Bisecting the arena basically doubled the number of quality seats, she points out. And the oversize video screen, which will display a mixture of prepared material and real-time live images, will "give the people sitting in the upper 200 seats a better view, in some ways, than those people sitting down in front."

For typical Cirque du Soleil shows, the musicians support the performers. In Delirium's case, the circus artists and dancers serve the vocalists and instrumentalists, who will perform rearranged work from all 16 previous Cirque productions.

One-off Cirque concerts in 1994 and 2004, done in conjunction with the Montreal Jazz Festival to celebrate the former's 10th and 20th anniversaries, are at the root of Delirium.

"Both organizations have grown really fast over the years, and both are the two major cultural international companies in Montreal, really," Ruest says of the jazz festival and Cirque du Soleil. Crowds for those multimedia outdoor performances reportedly reached close to 150,000."

Representatives from Live Nation (nee Clear Channel) were at the more recent show and suggested that Cirque du Soleil should partner with the international concert producer and promoter and take that type of show out on the road.

"They have such expertise in producing tours," Ruest explains, "and we want to lower the average age of those attending by offering a different kind of experience that still has the Cirque flavor."

Some cities that either don't have the space to accommodate a big top or can't sustain an extended run do have a sports arena, and the bigger capacity means that a wider range of ticket prices can be offered.

"Also, the new versions of all the Cirque songs emphasize an urban tribal beat," Ruest reveals, which could broaden the Cirque experience from the theater set to the nightclub nation.

Delirium, performed by Cirque du Soleil, plays Friday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2 and 8pm at the HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose. Tickets are $69.75-$125.25. (408.998.TIXS, 415.42.TIXS or

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