[ATTENDED: March 3, 2013] Cirque Zuma Zuma
Cirque Zuma Zuma was the final theater show of our 2012-2013 season. When I bought tickets for this I didn’t realize that it was designed as an all ages show (hint, shows that start at 7PM are for families, shows that start at 7:30 are for adults only). So I felt a little bad that the kids didn’t come as there were so many kids there. And they would have enjoyed this, although it’s probably just as well that they had a nice night with their grandma.
So Cirque Zuma Zuma is an African-based show of dance and acrobatics. There was a large banner that said that Cirque Zuma Zuma had been on America’s Got Talent. Now, I don’t quite understand this as the announcer of the show seemed to say that the performers were from countries in Africa. How could they be on America’s Got Talent if they are not American? I don’t get it.
Anyway, the show got off to a rousing start with drumming. Lots of drumming. There was a man with two drums (big bass drum sounding drums) and then two drummers who were playing what I thought of as an African bongo but which I believe is called a Djembe. And, man, they pounded the hell out of these things. It was amazing how musical three (or four) drums can sound. They played lead drum parts while the bass drum kept a steady rhythm. And then the dancers came out. Two women and a man dressed in what I assume is a traditional outfit. And they danced. Ecstatically. Nonstop. For about eight minutes. And what frenetic and crazy dances they were. They moved with such force and power. It was really amazing and it looked exhausting.
Then came the acrobatics. And was surprised at just how many of the acrobatic pieces were the same as ones done by the Chinese acrobats. It strikes me as odd that two very distinct cultures would do the same kinds of things. Are these just standard feats that contemporary performers learn?
The first was the climbing of and doing handstands on a stack of chairs. The big difference here was that these chairs were very large (as opposed to the many tiny ones the Chinese acrobats use). It was still impressive, and the chairs looked quite wobbly, but it was weird to open with a show stopper from another Cirque.
Other things that they did which we had already seen were jumping through hoops, spinning hula hoops, foot juggling and hat juggling. It was very strange to see these same things. The big difference was the music, which was African as opposed to Asian.
When the show ended, they introduced all of the acts to us, and this made it easier to tell that there were several discrete acts within the circus (the way the Big Apple Circus does it). So there were the dancers–who did three or four impressive dance routines. There was the chair climbing guy (who the announcer said recently dislocated his shoulder–what??). There was the hula hoop lady. There was the team of five jumpers. And there were the contortionists.
The hula hoop lady also did the foot juggling, and she was amazing. With the hula hoops, she did some standard things–hoops on one leg and neck, hoops on both legs at the same time. But then she did some really amazing things–kicking it from the ground to get it started, doing some kind of thing around her neck and armpit while moving around. And the show stopper–what must have been 50 hula hoops at once–with another person tossing them onto her while she was moving! There were some cool visual aspects of what she was doing too as the hoops were shiny and flashed and spiraled in various ways.
Later when she did the foot juggling, we were struck by the fact that she used the same objects as the Chinese acrobats–squares of fabric, an urn and a table. Weird. Amazing to see, and especially amazing to watch her feet, but still weird.
The contortionists are always amazing and creepy. But what was cool about these ladies was that they weren’t 75 pound little Chinese girls. They were larger, one was very full busted and they didn’t look like little girls. This somehow made their moves–which we decided must not be very hard if they are double jointed–look that much more impressive.
But the highlight had to be the five jumping guys. They were the ones who did the hoop tricks, which is always fun to see. They also did a great trick where the five of them balanced on one guy as he walked around–the way they flung themselves at each other–and stayed–was so much fun to watch. And then they did the pole climbing. There was a pole in the middle of the stage and they each took turns climbing it in various ways–some of which defied physics. Then they hung from the pole like flags or descended like mechanical animals. It was so much fun to watch. Perhaps the most fun sequence came when they did a limbo. An honest to god limbo–It was just like Hermes on Futurama. This guy did a limbo that was below his hips, then mid thigh and then, amazingly enough, below his knees. It was stunning.
I don’t want to leave out the pin jugglers who were fun to watch (who doesn’t love jugglers?). They had an act with a guy who juggled things from his mouth (he held out a stick of some kind in his mouth and flipped and caught a bottle). But he was like comic relief during their set and I wound up watching him more than them.
And I can’t forget t he clowns. Two guys from the show came out with crazy wigs on and all kinds of clown makeup and did a wonderful audience participation segment (this went on while they were taking down the pole–which they put up during intermission). One of the clowns was one of the drummers and he did some drumming and then they called a little girl out from the audience. He drummed and then she copied him and it was all very funny. Then they called a college student up–he was in our row and had a bunch of friends with him. And man did he have fun (his drum routine was much harder). It was a very enjoyable segment especially hearing his friends cheering him on.
The show ended with some more participation as they called all the kids up on stage to dance (and they played Waving Flag, which I was surprised by–although it was the anthem for the World Cup).
Overall this was a wonderful show. Even though many of the acts were things we had seen before, the energy and vibe of the show was so different. The Chinese acrobats have a kind of solemnity about them, whereas these guys were just having a good time. The drumming was amazing (and amazingly loud), the dancing was energetic and full of life and there was nothing precious about the show. At the same time, it definitely wasn’t as polished as the Chinese acrobats. The music seemed to have to be repeated through some the pieces–as if it wasn’t quite long enough and they had to restart the CD. I guess perhaps it felt more like family entertainment than a professional show. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and we came away from it impressed and feeling very rhythmic.
It was a good cap to the theater season.