Battles for balance
Zaia - Greek for "life" - dreams of becoming an astronaut and discovering the mysteries of space. During her celestial voyage into fantastical realms, the innocent girl encounters love, wisdom and the beauty of Earth and the humans living on it.
The show captures both eastern and western flair in a carnival of colours, sounds and styles from cultures around the planet. We begin in a lively city buzzing with social diversity, as depicted in the different rhythms of tango, gypsy, tap and modern dance numbers. From here, Zaia's odyssey leads her to the Orient, where acrobats cavort atop poles held by porters standing on balls - signifying the globe in the grip of a pair of com¬passes. As she ventures on Zaia discovers strange new worlds: an army of robots dance in futuristic costumes, a Charlie Chaplinlike character battles for balance on a pipe and planks, and African shamans twirl fire sticks. Finally she returns home and is welcomed back with a party where leaping acrobats crisscross the air above the stage.
As the show progresses, the audience senses the changes in Zaia's ideas about the world, its people and most importantly herself. We take the journey with her, experiencing a universe teeming with different cultural wonders and growing with each new encounter.
Cirque du Soleil shows are packed with circus stunts that wow the audience with soaring leaps, midair catches and heartstopping moves. But it's not all about drum rolls and adrenaline. A highlight of "Zaia" is the mastery and control on display in the heroine's romance with Romeo, which shows them meeting, then losing each other and finally being reunited. The two bring their love to a sultry peak with a handtohand balancing act that seems to defy the laws of gravity, then suspend it further at the end of aerial straps to express two hearts reunited. Switching between a single strap for synchronised movements and a double strap for aerial ballet, the act delivers sensual intimacy along with the exhilaration of acrobatic moves high above the ground.
The show mixes the shapes, textures and details of different cultures in its costumes to create a dazzling and colourful tapestry. The same goes with the music: Eastern sounds join western melodies, African beats and even traces of electronic music to form a harmonious soundscape for Zaia's adventures.
Cirque du Soleil's epic productions require a good deal of technical support and facilities, hence "Zaia" is being performed in its own purposebuilt theatre. The space has been designed to act like a giant telescope, with the audience sometimes seemingly peering out into a vast, empty universe during the show, at other times looking at the Earth from space.
The stage backdrop flows with a stream of images that synch with the story. In front of it, the fourstoreyhigh space is equipped with tracks on which chariots, a hotair balloon, ice blocks and other set elements slide into view, generating multidimensional effects. Get a seat in the middle of the theatre if you want a full view of the stage as well as the machinery moving in from the sides.
Intriguing and elegant, "Zaia" is beautifully written and put together with minute attention to detail. Whether it's a scene of vigorous action or of slowpaced drama, the artists' performances, the music, the simulated images and set elements are cleverly choreographed with artistic verve. It makes every step of this onehourthirtyminute journey through the universe well worth taking.
Roll up, roll up Quebecbased performance troupe Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984 by a group of 20 street performers. That number has gradually expanded to more than a thousand artists, who've given shows in 200plus cities around the world. Cirque du Soleil now has 17 shows running simultaneously, in places like Japan, Taiwan, Las Vegas, London, Dublin, Munich and Sydney.
Performances of "Zaia" are held every day except Monday. Tickets at MOP$388 (Bt2,000) to MOP$1,288 (Bt6,440) are available at the theatre or via www.CirqueDuSoleil.com/zaia.