Saltimbanco is the latest evolution of Cirque Du Soleil, which currently has several shows performing around the world. With the help of music, choreography and showmanship, Saltimbanco elevates traditional circus acts – at least the human ones -- to new heights of entertainment. The artists’ performances are so seemingly effortless that you leave the show truly believing humans can fly.
About Circus Du Soleil and Saltimbanco
The Cirque Du Soleil concept started with a group of street performers in Quebec who took their act, an abstract and painstakingly-staged circus show, to a big top. During their various tours, the big top grew bigger and bigger. Their show finally caught fire when it became a permanent act in Las Vegas, a city which now has five different Cirque Du Soleil shows. Several more Cirque Du Soleil shows are currently touring the world, including Saltimbanco.
The Saltimbanco show is based on the faceless masses inhabiting the big city, individuals who in realty represent diverse groups with complex inter-relationships. Without the Saltimbanco program, however, the abstract theme may not be apparent.
The Arena Set Up
This is Saltimbanco's second world tour. It was originally done in a big top, but this time around comes to Joe Louis as part of an arena tour. Joe Louis is more or less divided in half with a stage near the arena’s center and complex rigging hanging above it. In addition to stand seating, the ice is covered up for the occasion and floor seating is available.
The floor seating is more expensive, but gets you up close and personal – maybe too personal, as the front row people pay with more than just money for their seats. In fact, many patrons are ushered out of them to become part of the show.
First Half of the Show
A cross between Teletubbies and Mork from Ork, the players in Cirque Du Soleil’s Saltimbanco speak a language of squeeks, giggles and body language – heavy on the body language.
The first half of the show is like a Technicolor dream, complete with a sleeper, a Dr. Seuss like character with a big tummy and long tail. Much of the action takes place on the stage and includes human sculptures, boleadoras in motion, bike acrobatics, a mime and a juggler.
The highlight of the first half, however, is the Chinese pole act. No less than 15 acrobats perform simply amazing and jaw-dropping acrobatic routines on four Chinese poles as the rest of the cast sing and dance about them. In fact, the act feels like a finale it terms of action and awe. Several times during the performance, the acrobats free fall, head first, down their respective poles – much like you image doing as you descend the arena’s steep steps.
Second Half of the Show
The second half of the show is darker and more nightmarish. The costumes change from cute and cuddly to abstract and distorted. In fact, one character, Baron, looks suspiciously like the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The second half also contains more acrobatics, including a Russian swing that jettisons players in flips and somersaults through the air to be caught on a mat at the edge of the stage. Whether bizarrely coincidental or by premeditated design, two sets of twins steal this half of the show. Twin women do a trapeze act, much of it without a safety harness, that includes a series of poses executed at a frenetic beat. The male twins are floor bound, but no less able to defy gravity as they create human sculptures.
As the show wraps up, four trapeze artists ascend to the heights of Joe Louis. They face each other in a circle and, bound up in elastic harnesses, jump and flip about on bungee-like cords similar to those used in the baby toy Johnny Jump Up. The truly amazing part of the act is once again the choreography, which insists on several near misses between the acrobats prevented only by precise timing.
As is common in the entertainment industry, the writer was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of reviewing the show. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.