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Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

Cirque du Soleil’s Arena Show

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   A series of fast-paced, kaleidoscopic images that blend light, motion, color and sound has long been the essence of the venerable organization Cirque du Soleil. Now, Milwaukee-area audiences will have a rare opportunity to see a restaging of Cirque's very first traveling show, Saltimbanco, which opens a five-day run at the Bradley Center on Oct. 1.

  Cirque du Soleil's style borrows heavily from theater, dance and music to create a unique entertainment form, and Saltimbanco promises to make use of these distinctive elements. Cirque, which originated in Canada, is truly international in flavor, with 3,800 employees from more than 40 countries. Many performers are former Olympic medalists.

  Cirque du Soleil performances contain many elements familiar to circuses everywhere, including clowns, acrobats and lively music. However, there are no animals inside the ring, nor is English the only spoken language. The title, Saltimbanco, is derived from the Italian words for "to jump on a bench."

  The symbolism and symmetry of the shows are much easier to enjoy than they are to describe. The costuming, lighting, staging and nonstop procession of exceptional athletes can leave an audience stunned, breathless or roaring with laughter. In Saltimbanco, a cast of 47 will bring to life dozens of colorful, Felliniesque characters.

  Although all Cirque shows tend to transcend their basic concept, Saltimbanco is inspired by the urban fabric of contemporary society. The theme explores how the diversity that people find in a city-in this case, an imaginary one-can lead to harmony. As is often the case in Cirque productions, the show will take on a dreamlike quality.

  Like other forms of art, a Cirque performance means something different to each person who experiences it. To this writer, one of the words that best explains Cirque is "poetic."

  Originally created in 1992, Saltimbanco has been re-engineered to fit the demands of one-week runs and indoor arenas. Previously, the show was presented in a big top that stood for several months before it was dismantled and moved to the next location. Now, the show's physical dynamics allow Cirque to enter smaller cities such as Milwaukee-which is very fortunate for us.

  Saltimbanco runs at the Bradley Center from Oct. 1-5. Some days offer matinees as well as evening performances. To purchase tickets, call Ticketmaster, visit the Bradley Center box office or click on www.bradleycenter.com.