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VOLTA is full of youth, speed and heart pounding adventure and “WOW”. Cirque du Soleil’s new extravaganza is full of thrill and color and is now at the Big Tent at SF ATT park through February 3rd and moves to San Jose February 13th. Written and directed by Bastien Alexandre, the company includes 50 performers all at the top of their game. “In the creative process,” said Alexandre in a promotional video, “we got really inspired by the energy of action sports, that freedom of just going for things that you want to do.”

This is a tech explosion full of extreme sport acts, an awe-inspiring aerobatics as fans have come to expect from this billion dollar theatre company. The sweeping addition of breath taking high flying BMX biking and parkour, aerials and of course acrobatics add to the thrill of this two act experience.

Cirque du Soleil and the Bay Area celebrate a 30 year relationship, first pitching their tent back in 1988. VOLTA is the 19th CDS to visit San Francisco; this one may not have the romantic feel of the other shows but its eye catching street sport theme is sure to win over a younger audience. The dance in your seat pop-electronic score by M83 attempts to appeal to millennials and the younger Generation Z. VOLTA is layered in retro, the event has an ’80s look and feel but also mixes its story and design with ’60s counterculture.

Waz played by the wide eyed Joey Arrigo who has been ridiculed and bullied all his life because he wears a headful of blue feathers. We meet him at a game show, the MR WOW SHOW. He encounters others who have incredible abilities: rope skipping, trampolines and more.

Waz and his back story and search for “Find you Free” becomes the driving force of VOLTA’s narrative. He flashbacks to being mocked in school because of his feathers where his hair should be, and a coming-out that matches any “Friend of Dorothy”, The feathers subtext his queerness. Waz moves into the world of the Free Spirits, cool kids in eyecandy outfits; the costumes are by the wonderful Zaldy Goco. MEETING ELA includes a high rolling unicycle, the musical Hair comes to mind as this outsider joins a hippie tribe and is freed from the mainstream.

The amazing high end circus and sports acts help tell the story: a rope-skipping number is part of the WOW show, while a beautiful acrobatic number in which Waz swoops over the stage GUARDIAN ANGEL IN THE CITY as he hangs onto a light fixture wearing a blue feathered wig has something to do with Waz’s flashbacks as the screens on the vast set project him and a small boy. Girders and platforms burst up from Bruce Rodgers’ amazing set RISE AND SHINE is performed on a huge Trampowall in a parkour number that also has performers descending on a huge catwalk of trampolines.

In the first of several acts featuring BMX bikes, Takahiro Ikeda tiptoes on his front wheel up and down the platforms as a ballerina and the amazing Elena Suarez Pariente twirls next to him. The elegant performance creates a huge cheer from the sold out opening night audience. An older version of Waz watches home movies in the background suggests that this is his happy childhood memory. MR WOW’S NIGHTMARE includes the clown Andrey Kislitsin’s fight with animated washing machines in a laundromat as he displays his flashy skills in physical comedy. This was the first time children’s laughter filled the sold out tent. A high energy INTERVENTION with rings and bungee cord number ends the first act that represents a move toward ultra freedome for Waz and confirms the show’s genderfluid powerful explosion of mad skills that bring the audience to their feet.

An early act two highlight is called LEAVING THE CITY a shape diving number in which male acrobats run and hurl themselves through hoops placed higher and higher above the stage as the audience roars with approval. URBAN JUNGLE is an extended scene as he gets lost in a jungle after nibbling a hallucinogenic flower, and imagines himself as a buffed shirtless god. It is also part of the production’s theme of non Western cultures. In the show’s most unsettling number, MIRAGE, Danila Bim is suspended by a big hook through her hair bun and executes all kinds of flying acrobatic moves supported by her hair. Between Bim’s costume she is an imagined god and part of his hallucination. Bim’s body and the suppressed stress seemed more of a nightmare and get lost in this loose story.

The show’s most impressive moment is CAUSE YOU ARE STILL HERE is a climactic number choreographed by Julie Perron in which Arrigo reveals his dazzling skill as a dancer capable also of acrobatic tumbling in a number called BREAKTHROUGH. This extraordinary last sequence is a full BMX park of ramps and hops and high flying bikes called MOMENTUM. The cyclist are high flying as they match each other leap for leap, spin for spin. Plexiglas screens and nets are assembled on stage and riders swoop and fly in the crowd pleasing encore of high tech sports. Throughout, the live band with pitch perfect singers Darius Anthony Harper and Camilla Backman help create the high emotion. Martin Labrecque’s lighting is both spectacular and becomes one of the characters in this event.

The danger that is created is almost a constant heart pounding ending. Earlier this year a “Volta” performer died after losing his balance during a routine so watching the five BMX bikers performing their complex stunts up close on clear ramps let you see their every twist, and the possibility of a collision. As the show ends everyone is safe and the opening night crowd was on their feet and along with myself we were part of the MR WOW SHOW. Volta’s real danger during its first weeks in San Francisco was the dead Nor Cal air, that forced the Big Top to close during the opening weekend. But as I post this review the firestorms of Nor Cal are at ease and smoke filled skies are now open for a full of blast of VOLTA!

Presented by Cirque du Soleil presents



Written and Directed by Bastien Alexandre

At the Big Top

Third Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard, S.F.

Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4:30 and 8 p.m.

Fridays-Saturdays, 1:30 and 5 p.m.

Sundays; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 24 and Dec. 31;

Closes in SF Feb. 3

“Volta” moves Feb. 13-March 24 to San Jose.

Tickets: $54 to $290

More info

Photo credit: Matt Beard

Social Media: Twitter: @Cirque #VOLTA

Instagram: cirquedusoleil #VOLTA


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