That the human body is a marvel cannot be gainsaid. That the acrobats, clowns, gymnasts, aerialists and fire-jugglers in Cirque Du Soleil are marvels is acknowledged worldwide.
In Alegria the spectator sees them tumble, fly, juggle, contort, gambol, balance and cavort in manners that are alluring and inspiring.
The programme, which costs stg￡15, for the show Alegria includes a section entitled A Global Citizen, in which Cirque Du Soleil locate their modern practice in the tradition of travelling performers seeking to connect with people at street level.
Cirque Du Soleil now focus on:
the more global issue that is the fight against poverty, using the inspiration and energy of its shows to make another dream come true: that of improving the quality of life for all people, no matter where they live.
Achieving this goal is a high-wire act of stunning danger and risk, combining the marvel of the human body with corporate entities such as luxury high-performance car-makers, Infiniti, IT giants, CGI, and global business-process providers, Xerox, to create spectacles that now require production and financial underpinning, including ticket-pricing, of gargantuan proportions.
The spectator is awestruck as a man balances upside down, and on one hand, on a block no bigger than a cobble stone from the streets his antecedents performed upon, his skin taut over a rib-cage that is arced and tensile as in a grand cathedral of praise to the human form. The spectator admires his strength, his will and his beauty, all held in perfect balance.
A clown brings forth a wondrous snowstorm, full of gale gusts and ice flurries, that curiously warms the spectator .....
.... who then sees the human form contorted into sea creatures. Two women interpose their limbs, their trunks and their heads between and around each other to combine into life forms you would expect to see swimming with multi-coloured clown-fish amidst coral beds garlanded with vermilion fronds of sea-anemone.
Balancing street-cred and arena-savvy; gambolling with people while juggling corporate necessities; contorting the individual human, expressive act and the urge of spectacle to form a new creature: these are major challenges.
The trapeze artist, high above the safety-net, releases the bar. The spectator gasps. The trapeze artist tumbles and glides through the air. The catcher extends his arms. They always meet, the flyer and the catcher. The catcher grips.
The spectator gasps once more, in admiration. Holding the edge of the safety-net. Absorbing the wonder. And the ticket price.
Is this circus a route to improving the quality of life for all people, no matter where they live?
How else are artists to eat?
The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.
Alegria; circus: Cirque Du Soleil; Manchester Arena and touring; 2012
The Society of the Spectacle: book; Guy Debord (translated by Donald Nicholson- Smith); Zone Books; New York; 1995