Was evolution ever so breathtaking? Cirque du Soleil’s TOTEM traces the history of human existence from its primordial beginnings to its desire to take flight (a Cirque specialty). The brilliant visuals, awe-inspiring gymnastics and fantastical environment that the company’s performances are known for are all here and come wrapped around origin myths from various cultures.
By the numbers it’s an impressive feat. The show took three years to develop and takes eight days to set up. Most of the gymnastic action is focused around a 2,700-pound turtle carapace that represents the earth, while the actors make use of a 10,000-pound “scorpion bridge” across various tableaus. The setting morphs from marsh to swamp, river, lake, ocean, volcanic island, pond and starry sky—all using backdrop footage that was filmed around the world.
Visual imagery and scene-setting aside, it’s the circus skills and scenery that are the real draws at TOTEM. Jaw-dropping gymnastic feats—including parallel bars, clowning, hand balancing, trapeze and Russian bar work, and foot juggling—are performed by 52 artists from 19 countries who employ 750 costume elements. And it’s accompanied by live music that was custom-scored for the production.
The two-and-a-half hour visual feast runs from March 14 through May 5 Under the Blue and Yellow Grand Chapiteau in Lot C next to Citi Field. The Big Top holds 2,600 in half-round seating.