Cirque’s Totem Enchants, Entertains

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“I saw Allegria when I was a teenager, and decided that when I grew up I was going to join the circus,” our tour guide said as she was leading us backstage after a mesmerizing performance of Totem. “After university, much to my parents’ dismay, I did.”

The hilarious Pippo Crotti, who plays the Italian tourist in Totem.

We toured the artists’ tent, dodging the now jeans-clad artists as they rushed to catch the next shuttle back to the Georgian Terrace where they are staying, where we saw the shoe corner, the make-up area and dressing rooms.

I won’t be joining the circus any time soon — that no-talent, loving my own bathroom thing being just two of the many obstacles — but I will see every Cirque show that I can.

Including ones I’ve seen before. As soon as I sat down in the huge blue-and-yellow tent, the Grand Chapiteau, at Atlantic Station in Atlanta and saw the turtle carapace set, I had déjà vu all over again. I had indeed seen Totem before, on its closing night in Montreal in 2010.

But that didn’t diminish my sheer delight at the show, whose story is the journey of the human species from an amphibian to its desire to fly.

The set is so well done that you would swear there’s real water there, as waves and ripples are projected onto the raised center and at one point it looks like artists are swimming out onto the stage.

I’ve been hooked on Cirque since the very first show I saw and since then have seen several in Atlanta, Vegas and Montreal.

A highlight of my life was visiting the Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal, where we were only allowed as a journalists’ group. (Hey, there have to be some special benefits to the job.)

We saw buffed-up artists everywhere, working out, practicing, or just having lunch. My favorite part, of course, was a visit to the costume shop, a gigantic area filled with thousands of costumes, shoes, headpieces and dozens of people working meticulously to craft the gorgeous outfits we see on stage.

But back to Totem. As is typical of Cirque, each amazing act was followed by yet another one where human bodies performed feats that were seemingly impossible.

I loved them all but here were my top three acts of the evening:

The Fixed Trapeze Duo. Alternatively flirty and sulky, this couple moved so gracefully around each other and the trapeze, with movements and lifts that seemed to defy gravity. I wanted to rewind it and watch the whole thing again. Just lovely.
Hoops Dancer. It started with just one, but soon the Amerindian dancer had five hoops that he circled around his body, then spread out to form wings all the while dancing to a hypnotic drum beat.


Unicycles and Bowls. Maybe it’s because I doubt my ability to ever ride a unicycle. Or balance a bowl on my head. So to see these five ladies come cycling out on unicycles seven feet in the air, then proceed to balance bowls on their head, then toss them around with their feet to land on a fellow cyclists’ head demonstrated a level of balance, skill and control I could only dream about.


Totem is playing in Atlanta through December 30. Next tour stops are Miami: opening January 10; New York, NY: opening March 14; Philadelphia, PA opening May 30. For tickets information, click here.

All photos: Pouya Dianat/Allied Integrated Marketing/Cirque du Soleil

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