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Kooza
Cirque du Soleil

A Separate Peace

Cirque du Soleil has returned to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg with their traveling production Kooza, which brings them back to their origins with a show that combines two traditions of circus: acrobatics and clowns. The title derives from the Sanskrit word for box or treasure chest and was chosen because one concept of the show is a circus in a box.

It is a thrill packed show with one foot in European style circus, and includes several commedia dell'arte influenced characters who create a dramatic arc throughout the show. They include The Trickster, who acts as a silent host, focusing your attention; The Innocent, who opens the show with a kite flying routine which is very touching and establishes an immediate bond with the audience; The King, ruler of all funny men; two Clowns; The Pickpocket; Bad Dog (portrayed by a human being), the only animal in the show; and Heimloss, a creature who lives under the stage and seems to have control of the electrical mechanics of the show. Unfortunately, Cirque du Soleil does not identify the names of performers, but everyone playing these parts was excellent. These characters interact to provide a dramatic continuity not usually present in circus.

The thrill acts also are not identified by performer, only by skills. Each and every one has a moment that sets them apart from all but the biggest star circus acts. The first thrill act is Chirivari, floor acrobats who ended their act by having members of the troup bounce into and out of a stretched piece of cloth, trampoline like, without rubber. Next comes a Contortion act that begins when what appears to be a sculpture rolls downstage toward the front of the stage. The audience gasped when, after about a minute, they saw three young women who had been intertwined emerge from the sculpture. They perform together to create more sculpture like images. The high wire act features wires at 25 and 35 feet, adding a new dimension. Hoops Manipulation use Cirque du Soleil's high tech lighting to create some exciting light effects. The finale, Teeterboard has a person standing on two stilts and then one single pole, sent flying, doing multiple summersaults and then landing. The most exciting act for me is Wheel of Death which opens the second act. This consists of an apparatus which has two large stationary circles at opposite ends of a rotating beam. A man, later two men run around the perimeter of the inside and outside as the whole thing swings rapidly. They do jumps and other amazing feats, several of which made my heart skip a beat.

Of course, Kooza features gorgeous costumes, credited to Marie Chantale Vaillancourt. They have a unifying Asian feel which is further enhanced by exotic makeup for all the thrill performers.

The show was written and directed by David Shiner, with a unified feel from start to finish. Kooza is scheduled to be at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg through December 16, 2012. For ticketing information visit www.cirquedusoleil.com

See the current season schedule for West Coast Florida

--William S. Oser



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