Cirque du Soleil rises to the challenge

First performance of international circus's 'Alegria' show in Tel Aviv heats up the stage at Nokia Arena.

Cirque du Soleil's Alegria (photo credit: Guy Prives )
Cirque du Soleil's Alegria
(photo credit: Guy Prives )
It may have taken 18 years for Cirque du Soleil's signature production Alegria to come to Israel, but judging by the warm Israeli crowd's standing ovation at the Nokia Arena Wednesday night, it was well worth the wait.
For the 55 talented performers from around the world, the Tel Aviv stadium will be their home for the next three weeks as they jump, balance and "fly" their way through the two hour-long performance.
Alegria, which means jubilation in Spanish, takes audiences on a fantasy journey of power and the handing down of power over time, the evolution from ancient monarchies to modern democracies, old age and youth.
The opening show got off to a slow start with the lights still on, as the more traditional clowns entertained the crowds with their own unique brand of slapstick humor. Once the lights went down, the journey into Alegria's fantasy world began with the ringmaster Fleur introducing the cast of characters.
Cirque du Soleil  Guy PrivesCirque du Soleil Guy Prives
Alegria has no specific story line, instead it is split up into various gymnastic performances interspersed with short sketches from over-excited clowns. The first few gymnastic performances were a mixture of individual performances and group acts which included the synchronized trapeze, gravity defying hand balancing, fire-knife dancing and the power track.
The performers had done a great job of transporting the Israeli crowd into a fiery fantasy world, but this proved too much for some in the upper tiers who called out for the air conditioning turned up, before being shushed by other spectators. While the clown on stage at the time was obviously affected by the short shouting match which ensued, he continued in a professorial manner. It was as if the script writers 18 years ago had anticipated the Israeli summer heat, because a couple of minutes after the shouting match ended a massive wind machine blew cold air all over the stage and audience with blue confetti covering the entire arena, accompanied by dramatic music. With plenty of ironic laughter, the first half ended on a high. 
Cirque du SoleilCirque du Soleil
After a short interval, the performers returned with a new burst of energy. With the air conditioning now pumping to the max, the audience could fully focus on more of the show's weird and wonderful displays. Many in the crowd covered their eyes with their hands as they watched the contortionists, the Russian bars and the Cyr wheel rotation act.
The show's finale, the aerial high bars, was the act that produced the most gasps and the most cheers. The three high bars set over 12 meters above the stage was the setting for a team of strong male gymnasts to fly through the air as they performed gravity-defying stunts.
Cirque du SoleilCirque du Soleil
When the entire cast returned to the stage to take their bows they were met by a standing ovation from the audience, which included Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Even if the air conditioning is set at full blast over the next three weeks, the Nokia Arena will be on fire each night as the talented Cirque du Soleil performers heat up the stage with their unique brand of circus entertainment.
Cirque du Soleil performs at the Nokia Arena until August 25.