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Energy explodes in circus-like 'Holidaze'

By Lynn Trenning
Correspondent

More Information

  • REVIEW

    ‘Cirque Dreams: Holidaze’

    WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 2 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday.

    WHERE: Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, 430 S. Tryon St.

    RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes, including intermission.

    TICKETS: $35-$124.50.

    DETAILS: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.



If you stuffed Santa’s sack with holiday images from candy canes to reindeer, shook it up, added glitter, song, and arcane circus stunts, you’d have something that looks like “Cirque Dreams: Holidaze.” It’s not a play, and it’s not a musical; it’s a spectacle.

Cirque Dreams was founded by Neil Goldberg in 1993. “Holidaze” is one of 15 shows created at the Dream Studio in Pompano Beach, Fla., where performers from around the world are trained. The Charlotte production features artists from Ethiopia to Uzbekistan. Seven cast members hail from Ukraine. Cirque Dreams shows have been performed from Broadway to Busch Gardens.

In “Holidaze,” a “Cast of Ornaments” wake up and put on a show. That’s the plot. Every scene delivers a song and a circus act. The ornaments offer endless variations of the ancient arts of juggling, dance and gymnastics. The athleticism is nicely showcased at the Knight Theater, which is intimate enough for the audience to witness every quivering muscle.

There’s plenty to cheer, and just as much to jeer. First the cheers. “Winding Up” features Devid Tsytko juggling a Diabolo, a traditional Chinese prop that he tosses, whirls and improbably catches on a string. His winning grin and effortless retrieval of the spool-like toy prepped the audience for more.

In “Soaring Pirouettes,” aerial dancers Natalia Tsarevskya and Oleksiy Tsarevskyy intertwine like human ropes upon a hoop that rises and falls like a wind-tossed snowflake. In “Feats With Feet,” a boy – wearing pink and blue checkered pants with multicolored candy cane tights – climbs a ladder balanced on a performer’s soles, achieves a handstand, and tosses a four-foot baton in circles with his feet.

The fun never stops in this visual cacophony of strange talent. Most impressive was “A Quick Change,” where Jeferson Alexandre and Anastasiia Kriukova take turns stepping into shiny collapsible closets, and emerge in brand-new costumes every two seconds. It’s pure magic. In “It’s a Stretch,” Mulugeta Asefa contorts his body in ways that will make you wince.

The jeers? “Holidaze” is drowning in Christmas syrup. The costumes aren’t just colorful; they are a raucous display of all that can go wrong in fashion. Checks, plaids, polka dots, glitter; the costumer knows no shame.

For every marvelous feat of skill, there is a distracting parade of characters upstaging the performers. Literally. Wriggling candy canes, smiling gingerbread men, or wobbling penguins are constantly boogeying across stage. More is less when it comes to cast extras.

Most jarring was the final act. This perfectly pagan play closes with a rendition of “O, Holy Night,” featuring the aerial dancers in a sensuous flying tryst, serenaded by a quartet of garish ornaments.

But if you are looking for an eye-popping sensation that evokes the simple circus acts of yore – and if too much is never enough – this is the show for you.

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.
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