Wednesday, August 24, 2011

East meets west with Cirque du Soleil's 'Dralion'

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM

The action, the speed, the adrenaline — this isn’t your Fast Five Imax experience, although you're bound to jump of your seat or squeeze the hand of the person sitting next to you. Unlike watching cinematic car crashes, you'll also find precision, balance and perfection at the Cirque du Soleil. The international company has 5,000 employees from close to 50 countries, a far cry from its origins in the 1980s with 20 street performers in Quebec.

To convey the scale of a Cirque du Soleil production like Dralion, playing in Atlanta Aug. 25-28, consider that more than 300 pairs of shoes are cleaned and painted by hand every week. Sean McKeown, the artistic director of Dralion, explains the meaning behind the title word.

Apart from rope skipping, juggling and jumping on the trampoline, what is the show about?
Some of the principle themes of the show are the concept of East meets West. Our creation director went to China and borrowed all 3,000 years of Chinese acrobatic tradition and then came back to Montreal and created a special Cirque du Soleil merge, a fusion of our very western orchestration with the very traditional eastern craft. So basically the show’s about fusion.

Why the concept East meets West?
What it gave us is what Dralion is: a fusion of the dragon and the lion, where the dragon represents the East and the lion represents the West. So that gives us the basics of peace and harmony called the Dralion. I think the director wanted to get a message out there that we should live in a world of harmony, that we should live in a world where people from all kinds of places can get along.

Given that you’re such an international company, the performers must be experiencing their own efforts to live and work in harmony. And then also you’re all the way from Australia. Do you relate to the theme in any way?
Well, Australia is a long way away! But it’s a very multicultural society and becoming more so. We have people coming from Asian countries, people coming from the African countries. So that’s an engine of tourism and multiculturism.

When your career kicked off at the age of 12, did you want to be a performer? Did you ever see yourself as an artistic director?
I was an actor. I have been a singer. And I have been a dancer and I did play a musical instrument. At the age of 12 I was actually doing pantomime, which is a very English tradition, usually done during Christmas time. It’s very strange because as a young man I always wanted to run away and join the circus!

So that’s a dream come true.
Yeah, in a way, by chance, my dreams came true.

Speaking of dreams come true, what reaction would you like to see from the audience when they come to see Dralion?
It just depends. Obviously people in different places people react differently. For example, in Japan people are very respectful with their reaction. At the end of the show they’re handing flowers to the performers on the stage and going crazy. Most American audiences have very immediate reactions. They turn away, they’re very appreciative of what they see on stage. And most important is the standing ovation at the end of the show.

So what’s your favorite part of the show?
My favorite part? You know that’s like asking which one is your favorite child. But at the end of the show, the people’s reaction, the standing ovation, I think that’s why we do what we do. It’s nice when we hear back from the audience that they’re having a great time.

Last word?
The show’s full of ‘WOWs’ in it.

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