From start to finish, Quidam is a feast for the senses, presented to the audience with dramatic, joyous flair.
The first of eight shows at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre on Wednesday was warmly received by a very appreciative audience - they applauded what they liked, laughed and gasped, and gave a heartfelt partial standing ovation to the amazing young performers at its close.
As with other Cirque du Soleil shows, Quidam is richly layered - from the imaginative costumes and makeup, the live music that ranges from haunting to hokey, the lights, the choreography and characters, and of course the astounding athleticism of the show's 52 performers.
Quidam's story centres on a child named Zo‚, who is ignored by her self-absorbed parents. In her boredom and solitude, she is welcomed into the fantastical world of Quidam, enticed by the comic characters Target and John.
The anonymity of the faceless white Quidam characters is sinister and frightening at first, but soon their colours and extraordinary talents become apparent, and the audience too is absorbed into the Cirque's wonderful fantasy world.
The first half is quickly paced with the solo artist Eric Saintonge spinning inside his ever-twirling Cyr wheel, to the award-winning act of the diabolos. Here, four young women toss, spin and catch the diabolo, a Chinese yo-yo or wooden top, in complicated dexterity.
The first half also includes the aerial silk contortion act by Vancouver resident Tanya Burke, a former competitive gymnast and nuclear reactor operator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She gracefully twists and spins in the air 30 feet up on a length of red silk fabric, which alternately embraces and releases her.
Almost everyone can relate to playing games with a skipping rope, but the performers and choreographer took this timeless child's diversion to stratospheric levels. The exceptional co-ordination, pace and intricacy - at one point, the team was turning eight criss-crossing ropes - raised "wows" and much applause.
Quidam also offers plenty of laugh-out-loud comic relief from the intense athleticism with Toto Castineiras, wonderful, irreverent, self-important as The Clown.
He crosses the barrier to pull in the spectators, including one good-natured young woman, who bumps along in his imaginary car and puts up with The Clown as he tries to romance her.
The Clown returns in the second half of the show to entice four more audience members into a hilarious, burlesque silent movie skit. It's remarkable that people, despite our busy lives and high-tech gadgets and high expectations, can still take so much joy in "simple," straightforward clowning.
One of the truly headshaking performances came from Yves D‚coste and Valentyna Sidenko. When they emerge from a tangle of white-clad bodies, they look serene, sculptural. They remain that way throughout their act, even as they slowly move together to balance off each other's superbly fit bodies in what seem to be impossible poses.
They become each other's reflection, as she balances on her neck, resting on the back of his neck.
From there, almost never losing physical contact with each other, these two 'super beings' form living abstract sculptures of their own bodies as they balance off each other. Their strength and sense of balance and trust was astounding. You could hear the audience collectively hold its breath.
The second half ends with the spectacle of the banquine, an Italian acrobatic tradition with roots in the Middle Ages. This award-winning segment employs 15 of the artists with gasp-worthy tosses and pyramids.
All the while, throughout the clowning or the fantastic overhead aerial performances and floor routines, live music pumped through the Cirque's excellent sound system.
The audience was treated to the sublime voices of Alessandra Gonzalez and Jamieson Lindenburgand, accompanied by musicians Michel Cyr, Olaf Grote, Alicia Enstrom, Andre Boyd and Naldo Posella, who all made the performances even richer.
And the show of course couldn't be what it is without all the behind-the-scenes preparation, planning and technology, such as the elegant overhead mechanisms that moved the aerial performers in and out of view.
Indeed, one of the comments overheard from a spectator was, "as far as entertainment value goes, you simply can't get more bang for your buck."
Those who go to the Abbotsford show also have an opportunity to support The Reach Museum & Gallery, as some shows will contribute a portion of the ticket price to the gallery. When purchasing a ticket, use the promotion code REACH.
Quidam is performed at the Abbotsford Entertainment Centre, 33800 King Rd., Abbotsford. Shows are 7:30 p.m. nightly until Sept. 2, with matin‚es from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.
Tickets: Adults $45 and up, children $36 and up at the Abbotsford centre box office, 1-866-977-2372, at abbotsfordcentre.ca or at cirquedusoleil.com.