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Quidam: A Circus of Human Spirit

Picture a column of people three stories tall, people stacked three-deep on one another’s shoulders.  Three others launch a small woman diagonally over the tower, and the one atop it catches her perfectly.  The column stays steady.

If you’ve never been to a Cirque du Soleil show before, it’s quite the experience–but nothing like that of a typical circus.  Instead of three rings, trained animals, and piped-in music, Cirque shows are a more intimate and artistic environment. The audience sits around the stage (usually in a tent, but this one was modified to fit the arena structure of the Bryce Jordan Center) and is treated to a visual spectacular, complete with amazing stunts, characters, and a live band.  It’s more like a combination of circus arts, theater, music, and dance, all performing at their highest level.  This is the third time I’ve seen one of Cirque du Soleil’s traveling productions, and I was prepared to be just as amazed as the first time I saw one.

But Quidam still found a way to surprise me.  Instead of focusing on the quest for happiness (like Alegría, which made a stop at the BJC last year), or a loner’s journey into mischief and excitement (Kooza, my personal favorite), Quidam puts on display the quest of the human spirit to break out from anonymity.  The background cast is clad in white jumpsuits, and when groups come forward to perform their perfectly choreographed acts, their real costumes are exposed.  Every act is some kind of human manipulation of simple objects,like Chinese yo-yos, or the human body itself, in simple-looking but difficult balancing acts.  In one act, a man and a woman balance on each other’s backs, supporting each other completely.

On another level, the show is about imagination.  Quidam begins as a small girl, ignored by her mother and father, receives a hat from a strange headless man who comes straight out of Henri Magritte’s painting, Son of Man. Hat in hand, the girl is transported to an imaginary world where she finds ways to entertain herself, with the help of a couple of clowns.  A hula hoop becomes a swing which several performers spin and hang on from above.  Jump ropes become long ropes that performers climb, wrap around themselves, and unroll justbefore they hit the ground.  The mother and father go on their own journeys, learning to regain the passion in their lives and breakout of daily routines respectively.  The plot was somewhat hard to follow, but thematically, it worked.

If this sounds too serious for a circus, it’s not.  Many of the impressive acts have to be seen to be believed, and there’s a real sense of whimsy and fun throughout.  Several clowns add humor to the proceedings, bringing audience members onstage to take part in the fun.  Some of their material might be a bit racy for younger kids, but they were probably playing to a college-aged audience–and with quite humorous results.  The music also helps to immerse the viewer in the action, creating a real pulse to the show with an almost electric jazz style.

Quidam will continue for the rest of the week, and you can find more information at the Bryce Jordan Center’s website. It’s Parents’ Weekend, with no home football game, so why not take in an awesome show with your family, friends, or significant others?  If you go, prepare yourself for some amazing acts and lots of fun.

About the Author

Alex Federman

Alex is a Senior at Penn State who enjoys watching movies and television shows (probably a bit too much). He's a Film/Video major, with a Spanish minor.

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