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Posted: July 22, 2009

Cirque du Soleil brings Kooza to Denver

'Circus in a box' combines acrobatics and clowning, with a splash of Indian culture

Mary Butler

The concept is “circus in a box” but Kooza, Cirque du Soleil’s traveling show slated to open in Denver on Aug. 20, will be anything but small.

The show, moved from city to city in 50 tractor trailers, will employ 100 to 120 locals, who will assist in the seven-day set up of Kooza’s 2,555-person capacity Grand Chapiteau to be erected next to the Pepsi Center for the six-week run.

What differentiates this Cirque du Soleil production from the rest of its 19 shows underway around the world this year – and shows from throughout its 25-year history – is the combination of two circus traditions, clowning and acrobatic performance, and an overarching Indian flavor, said Luc Tremblay, senior artistic director.

“It’s very much influenced by Indian culture,” said Tremblay, who was in Denver on July 15 to promote the show. “David Shiner, the writer and director, is a former clown. He wanted to do somewhat of an inner journey by visiting the country.”  

If you go:
What: Cirque du Soleil, Kooza
Where: Pepsi Center, Grand Chapiteau
When: Aug. 20-Oct. 4
Tickets: $38.50-$215, www.cirquedusoleil.com

Kooza, inspired by the Sancrit word “koza” or “small treasure,” will be the seventh Cirque du Soleil show to visit the Mile High City. Its story centers on The Innocent, “a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world.”

Tremblay said the team of 53 performers hailing from 14 countries is “very appealing.” Unsurprisingly, “the acrobatic elements are incredible,” he said. But newer to the Cirque du Soleil repertoire is “probably the best juggler in the world” and an apparatus called the Wheel of Death.

Tremblay called Shiner a master of clowning and said Kooza reflects his American heritage in its use of the slapstick comedy tradition. “It’s very interactive with the audience,” Tremblay said. The circular stage resembles a public square that transforms into a circus ring, offering proximity to the audience "where the danger is palpable," said set designer Stephanie Roy.

Other elements of the show include balancing on chairs, contortion, high wire, solo trapeze, hand to hand (in which two performers act as one), a unicycle duo, as well as charivari, in which 19 artists create human pyramids, fly through the air and dive in to a circle of fabric inspired by the traditional Inuit game of “blanket toss.”

There are 750 pieces of costuming and an eight-piece band on stage featuring an Indian singer and a soul singer. “You really feel the music as a participant in the show,” Tremblay said. 

“Kooza is about human connection and the world of duality, good and bad,” writer and director Shiner said, according to press materials. “The tone is fun and funny, light and open. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s very much about ideas, too. As it evolves we are exploring concepts such as fear, identity, recognition and power.”     

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Mary Butler is ColoradoBiz's online editor.

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