Over winter break, I had the privilege of taking a long eleven-day vacation with my immediate family. We journeyed west (further west than I had ever been) to Los Angeles. We spent several days there, before spending one day in San Diego (to see the zoo) and the last few days of the trip in Las Vegas. I was blessed to be able to see much that those three cities had to offer.
One of the highlights of the trip was certainly attending Cirque du Soleil at the MGM in Las Vegas. Specifically, I went to see their show Ká. I can say without a doubt that Ká is the greatest show I have ever seen.
Ká is one of the first performances by Cirque du Soleil that features one continuous storyline. The story centers around two siblings, a prince and a princess, who are split from each other when a rival kingdom invades their own. The performance depicts their journey to reunite, while also showing their conflict and close escapes with the rival kingdom. Landscapes vary from dangerous jungles, treacherous mountains, tumultuous seas, and even the dark lair of the rival kingdom. These transitions are done through amazing sets, stages (more on that later) and incredible non-verbal communication through costumes, dances, and stunts.
Ká opened in February of 2005 and has been seen by more than a million people over the course of its tenure. Though Ká is the first performance by Cirque du Soleil to have a concrete, cohesive storyline, it is not only the story that makes the performance so breathtaking. Having sat only four rows from the front of the stage, I can say it is the most technologically advanced theatrical show of all time. And that’s not just me; The Los Angeles Times said the same thing when they wrote about its debut.
There are actually two stages (and five smaller platforms) that are used throughout the course of the show. Having been there I can explain it like this; there is a small ring that goes around like a stage, and with what looks like a bottomless abyss behind it. Once the show begins a platform is raised up from that pit. This machine is by far the most innovative stage of all time. It can rotate 360 degrees around and can become almost completely vertical (around 100 degrees). It moves throughout the show as the athletes perform death-defying stunts. I could hardly believe my eyes as I watched the artists run up and down an ever-moving stage.
However, the most breathtaking feats came when the acrobats used one of the most dangerous circus constructions of all time, the wheel of death. The wheel of death is a large metal structure balanced like a beam with two open spherical cages on each end. The performers start inside these cages, though they later move outside them and on top of them. The catch is that the structure is constantly spinning and the performers must balance on it as they are turned around like a clock head. Describing such a structure is difficult, but there are plenty of YouTube videos depicting this kind of performance, including the scene straight from Ká itself. The artists ran up and down the wheel, including one performer who used a jump rope as the wheel spun underneath him. The audience could hardly react with each motion becoming more and more dangerous and equally more exciting.
Overall the performance took my breath away. The stunts, performed with such precision, made the audience gasp in awe with every twist and turn. Yet underneath the insane tricks rests a heartwarming tale of the reunion of two siblings and the salvation of an entire kingdom. So, if you are ever in Las Vegas and want to see a quality Cirque Du Soleil performance, Ká is certainly the one to see. There is never a dull moment and there is nothing like it in the world.
(The Union library currently has a documentary entitled, “Another Kind of Circus,” on the history of Cirque Du Soleil if you would like to learn more about their origins. You can find access to this documentary from the library page on Union’s website.)
*written by Brennan Kress