Picture this: you arrive at Toronto’s Port Lands to see The Big Top, a 19-metre tall white and gold tent, which is surrounded by jugglers, puppeteers, and a massive crowd of excited patrons. You enter the tent, and the dim, purple lighting immediately sets the mood; this is going to be quite an adventure.
As people settle into the arena, a voice comes on the speaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our flight to the beautiful Mexico,” and the journey begins. There are not enough words in the English language to describe the beauty, the physical poesy, and the marvel in this show.
Luzia, directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, guides its audience through a spectacle overflowing with culture, stupendous mastery and skill, and breathtaking magnificence.
The story follows a Traveler (Eric “Fool” Koller), a harlequin clown in his discovery and exploration of Mexico. As he descends with his umbrella, the Traveler finds himself in a field of flowers with a large wind-up key protruding from its center. Sheepishly, he turns the key and breathes life into this once quiet field. A giant monarch butterfly descends, and then departs from the flowery field into the rising morning sun.
Throughout Luzia, many artistic elements, combined with feats of physical mastery, come to life: hoop divers on treadmills, dancing acrobats, you name it. All these acts connect to the Mexican narrative. By the end, the Traveler has immersed himself so deeply into the magic that he forgets about its necessary end. As everyone around him freezes, he notices once again the wind-up key in the middle of the stage and realizes that his journey has come to an end.
As Luzia is a creation of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, its performance falls within the realm of gymnasts, dancers, and circus-performers. The wonder of Luzia lies in its ability to combine special effects, music, and set and costume design to enrich the narrative. Aerial artist Benjamin Courtney brings to life one such example. In his act, Courtney embodies a traditional Mayan spirit, performing a ritual into the gate of the afterlife above a sinkhole. In his performance, he interacts with a magnificent Jaguar, a prominent mythological creature in Mexican culture. What makes this act ever so magical is the finesse of puppeteers Gerardo Ballester Franzoni, Emmanuel Cyr, and Mònica Varela Couto.
In addition to the intricacy of their movements, the three puppeteers wear traditional Guayabera shirts to keep in consistency with Mexican culture – truly a mark of brilliant dedication. This interaction between Courtney and the Jaguar tells a solid story of blossoming companionship.
Strongly backing Luzia’s enchanted performance is the elaborate and efficiently organized set. From water, to treadmills, to swings, this stage has it all. Built with 94, 657 holes, the stage is designed to absorb 3,500 litres worth of water. Conveniently, this allows Luzia to experiment with a completely unique form of performance: a percussion parade of rain. Using water droplet mechanics, the show creates two-dimensional images from water droplets and blank spaces in reminiscence of the Day of the Dead. Even more fascinating is the fact that the performers reuse all of the water for their daily activities and future acts, so practically nothing goes to waste.
Although I tried to give as much credit as I could, this show has so much more to offer, and I highly recommend that everyone goes out and tastes its magic.
Luzia runs at Toronto’s Port Lands until Oct. 16. For more information, visit https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/canada/toronto/luzia/buy-tickets.