Tuesday, July 29, 2003

'Dralion' full of fine acrobatics



By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If you're of the mind that the astounding balancing and precision of Chinese acrobats is among the most marvelous entertainment options available, then Cirque du Soleil's Dralion, touring to Columbus through Aug. 17, is the show for you.

If not, you'll be happier catching one of Cirque's shows in Las Vegas, where, working in its own resident theaters, the productions are so elaborate (to the point of having a hydraulic pool in O) that they leave the audience near-dumbstruck at the originality and technical expertise. (These can be the ultimate "how'd they do that?" shows.)

Dralion is probably the most gorgeous Chinese acrobat show you'll ever see, and if Cirque's exotic approach is what it takes to invite people to look at a mesmerizing - and difficult - ancient form with fresh eyes, then it's well worth it. (But perhaps not quite worth the $65 top ticket price.)

Just be aware that, beneath the fanciful costuming, the big production values, the global music and the other-worldly vocals, what you find in the center ring under Cirque's blue-and-gold big top are human pyramids, tumblers, balancing acts and a very cool routine with a giant wheel.

Dralion takes its name from dragon and lion, and the show's mascot is a funky dragon-headed lion, which would be a hit in a Chinese New Year parade. (Two performers in the costume bring its antics to life.)

A troupe of Chinese women in green leotards painted to resemble climbing vines climbs up and up and up toward the highest point of the big top. A routine with parasols demonstrates that feet are just as good as hands for juggling.

There are feats on the flying trapeze, but just as big of an "ooooh!" goes to the women when they perform a balancing routine that takes them one on top of the other with the women at the bottom on their toes on light bulbs.

All the big stuff is saved for the second act. The first is dominated by a running gag with a trio of skilled clowns. (They're in Chaplinesque black-and-white, closer to mimes than to Ringling Bros.)

They start with a preshow of drafting audience members into their antics and the game continues between circus acts.

Dralion plays out against a backdrop that bears a passing resemblance to a car's grill, giant-sized so that several performers can move around it.

A plus to seeing the show in Columbus: The Arena district, where the big top is, has cool restaurants and the downtown farmers market.

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Dralion, Cirque du Soleil, Nationwide Boulevard and Neil Avenue, Columbus. (800) 678-5440 or (www.cirquedusoleil.com)




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