Sunday, October 9, 2011

Where to be Merry: Cirque du Soleil’s Iris @ Kodak Theatre

Earlier this week, I was invited to attend Cirque du Soleil’s IRIS: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF CINEMA at the Kodak Theatre. Now I’ve seen a few Cirque du Soleil performances on DVDs, but IRIS (pronounced eeeeee-REES) was my first live show. It’s one thing to see the edited version of acrobats flying in the air while you’re sitting in the comforts of your own living room. But when you’re in a theater watching five men instantaneously create a human tower by balancing on one another’s shoulders, and then watching them wait for the right moment to launch the top person into a somersault, how can you not hold your breath and tensely clasp your armrests? It’s a lot of suspense, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I shrieked from fright and surprise – on multiple occasions.

IRIS audaciously pushes the envelope with 12 artistically complex scenes that highlight some of cinema’s most notable milestones. For about two hours, 72 performers daringly test limits: the limits of gravity, of their own bodies’ and their colleagues’ flexibility, of the strength of the ropes from which they nonchalantly dangle from with one hand, scores of feet in the air. I guarantee that even the most skeptical of spectators will shake their heads in disbelief, wondering, did they really just do that?!

And while there are obvious nods to the filmmaking process, by no means do you have to be a movie buff in order to appreciate IRIS. Yes, the show pays tribute to many aspects of the Hollywood industry, from the early black-and-white classics, the film noir genre and nostalgic gangster movies (pictured below), to cartoons and the evolution of computer graphics and special effects. But there are also acts than anyone can appreciate for – simply put – their indisputable beauty.

Take for example, one of my favorite scenes of the evening. It’s a simplistically serene moment, with a lone man sweeping the floor and an ethereal trapeze artist suspended on a swing above him. As a melancholy melody from the tinkling of a piano fills the air, your eyes rhythmically go side to side, left and right, watching her sway back and forth, her hair gently blowing past her. It’s a gorgeously executed routine, and you can’t help but to be enchanted, anticipating, anxiously for her next move.

And as captivating as the performers’ dances and ensembles are, I’d also say that the music is just as entrancing. The score, composed by the film composer superstar Danny Elfman, discreetly – almost subconsciously – heightens what you see onstage. The mix of live string instruments and track compositions that interweave the Carmen theme song are hauntingly exhilarating and poetic.

I could seriously go on and on, but I’ll sum it all up by saying that through the use of multiple art forms and candid audience interactions, IRIS creates a truly euphoric experience. Coyly toying with your emotions and expectations, the performers twist and bend and extend themselves in unimaginable ways, creating literal bodies of art, frozen in brief seconds of time.So if you’re looking to be thoroughly entertained, perhaps by a splendid story of how the camera has managed to weave itself into our lives for more than a century, I recommend catching a glimpse of IRIS.

See you there soon!

Miss Wilson's Tips (So you know "what's up" when you go):

- After the performance, I snagged a few interesting details from a Q&A with a few performers, the Artistic Director and the Company Manager. Here they are:
o IRIS is one of the only productions where Cirque du Soleil used a pre-existing building, the Kodak Theatre; the company usually builds its own entire edifices to house its showso IRIS production costs are around $100 million
o From concept to opening night took roughly three years in the making
o There are 200 costumes, which arose from 1,000 sketches

- The action isn’t just on the stage; it’s all around you, on the sides of the stage and in the air. Since the Kodak Theatre is somewhat intimate, sitting in the Mezzanine section near the balcony gets you close enough to the stage to see all minute details, and also everything that takes place overhead.

- IRIS will be in Hollywood for the next ten years!

- Another Cirque du Soleil classic will make Los Angeles its home soon; OVO comes to Santa Monica in January 2012. And, if you’re not in the LA area, not to fret – Cirque du Soleil is worldwide:

- Kodak Theatre does not give parking validations; go to the Visitor’s Center on the first floor by the Mac Store (closest to Hollywood Blvd.) to get validation.

For more information:
Cirque du Soleil
Kodak Theatre
6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

All Photo Credits: Mark Dulong and Matt Beard © 2011 Cirque du Soleil

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