On October the 27th 2009 – for those of you who have not been following that long – and besides me, that would probably mean all of you – I underwent robotic heart surgery for the repair of a malfunctioning mitral valve. I appear to be better, so this paragraph relievedly concludes on an upbeat note.
But does not explain why this blog post is entitled Cirque Du Soleil.
The explanation for which I shall supply forthwith:
A couple of weeks before my scheduled surgery, in an effort to distract me entertainingly from…”that thing”, Dr. M and I attended the 2009 edition of Cirque Du Soleil. (You need only to be patient, Blue Writing Person.) As it turned out, however, the performance produced the opposite of its intended effect.
For those unfamiliar with its distinctive M.O., Cirque Du Soleil – whose origin derives from a troupe of French Canadian street performers – is an exquisitely imaginative sound and light-enhanced program of acrobatic, juggling and aerial demonstrations, whose impeccable execution boggles the senses and whose dazzling presentation revivifies the heart. (That’s not from their brochure, but it could be. In fact, if you Cirque guys need your P.R. releases spruced up, I’m available. And I do not need to say “revivifies.”)
The theme of every Cirque du Soleil offering is different, but, overall, the shows conjure a distinctly otherworldly terrain, in the context of which their enthralling “Feats of Wonder” are performed. The essential-to-the-ambiance lighting offers a computer-generated “Light Show”, and the electronic music sounds like what I imagine they play on elevators on Mars.
Anyway, there I am, the quintessential “Apprehensive Pre-op”, sitting in my seat that 2009 afternoon, waiting eagerly to be transported. The show begins, and way above our heads, on trapezes and on dangerously narrow tightrope wires, I see intrepid circus folk engaged in death-defying activities for the breathless edification of the onlookers below. Suddenly, and for the first time – as I had attended numerous Cirque Du Soleils in the past…
I feel overwhelmed by the anxiety that somebody up there is going to die.
There is a possibility that, in psychological parlance, the phenomenon I was experiencing was a textbook example of anxiety “projection.” Whatever the reason, my reaction triggered palpitations and sweats, shortness of breath and quiet moaning, the combination of which severely inhibited with my enjoyment of the show. (And quite possibly the enjoyment of the people sitting around me as well.)
Nobody died that day. Nor, happily, did I, during my surgery. Which was, all around, a good thing. But here now comes Cirque Du Soleil 2014, and we are dutifully purchasing our tickets. That purchase, however, came clouded by the memory of the 2009 experience, the looming question being, “Will it be fun, or will it be ‘Get me outta here!’”
Would I be able to sit through it? Was the issue at issue.
As it turns out, I never definitively found out. Not because we didn’t go – what kind of anti-climactical story would that be? – but because, due to intervening circumstances, Cirque Du Soleil had, for its 2014 presentation, fundamentally altered its “it.”
On July Fourth 2013, in Las Vegas, Cirque Du Soleil suffered a fatality, when an aerialist – I close my eyes as I type these words – plunged to her death near the end of the performance.
Now my connecting the dots here could be entirely erroneous, but it appears to me that as a result of that accident, the 2014 edition of Cirque Du Soleil has been significantly scaled back in the “endangerment” department.
Reflecting an intentional “back to basics” theme (and content), 2014’s Totem, rather than being eerily futuristic, delves “stripped-downedly” into our prehistoric past, complete with a “rock” that magically transmogrifies into “rippling water”, out of which, even more magically, swimming “sea creatures” emerge, delivering themselves Darwinially onto Terra Firma.
Among its memorable acts, Totem includes four women who flip a series of aluminum bowls onto the tops of each others’ heads, while simultaneously riding unicycles. We watched a man enter a large, transparent funnel and juggle an escalating number of colored balls off of the funnel’s angular walls. (Or were they colored lights and the man simply, but still mesmerizingly, pretended to juggle?) Finally, there were these magnificent acrobats who executed an uncountable number flips high in the air before landing “feet first” on narrow orange-colored (or coloredly-lit to appear orange) bending boards or resilient strips of plastic.
All of these were amazing to behold. But if they fell, it was, like, six feet to the ground.
I had a wonderful time at Totem. But due to its participant-friendly “re-imagining”, I found myself insufficiently tested, a concern, however, that may well become irrelevant. Cirque du Soleil may never indulge in such death-defying activities again. In which case I have nothing further to worry about.
The thing is, owing to its tamer presentation, I was deprived of discovering the answer: That time when that “anxiety thing” happened:
Was it them?
Or was it me?