Volta is Cirque Du Soleil’s newest touring show that is based on the theme of embracing differences, social media isolation, and finding sparks of childhood magic.
Circuses have a long and exploited history, especially in America. Yet, Cirque is all the fun of the circus made sophisticated and without the guilt. It probably why it’s still one of the few lasting circus-like traveling shows. I have nostalgia towards the circus and big top events. I crave the spectacle and audience engagement that the circus provides, but not the elephant and horse animal abuse from touring circus’ like Barnum and Bailey or The Ringling Brothers. Not to mention, the added danger of performers working with hungry and wild animals, which resulted in the closing of many circus’ in the 1990s and 2000s. I wasn’t disappointed with Volta, because it’s more than just a “circus”. Cirque Du Soleil’s marketing of being beyond a “circus” has become a rising trend in spectacle performances.
Cirque centers and focuses their shows differently than what theatre goers would see as normal. Volta is set inside multiple large big tops outside of Soldier Field and the content inside is as impressive as it’s exterior. The set for the entire show is built around the audience in an arena staging. The set itself has many transformable aspects like ever shifting lighting, foldable and innovative props, and an impressive rotation of costumes. This all helps with the way Cirque forms its fragmented and spectacle based storytelling.
Normally this type of storytelling doesn’t always translate well on stage, yet Cirque has perfected their way of telling stories. Who says every story needs to have Aristotle’s plot structure to be impactful? While the story is fragmented, that doesn’t mean that everything isn’t meticulously planned, even down to the blocking and transitions. In this, they are actually able to eliminate the barriers of language with using only visuals like commedia dell’arte and mystifying performances. Cirque seems to understand that once words are added to the mix, it becomes exclusive and inaccessible for everyone.
Even though the tech is a wonderful aspect to Volta, what makes the show is the performers. They are high energy, focused, and every act is like something never seen before. All I can say is that it’s dreamlike and also sometimes frightening.
One of the most dazzling parts of this show, without spoiling too much, is in act two, with the hair suspension act. A woman is suspended in the air by only her hair while she does arial spins and movements. Another amazing performance aspect of the show is the two live vocalists and band. These vocalists keep an impressive range and stamina for the entire show. It’s the music of Volta and cirque du soleil that drive the story for the audience.
The only issue, I personally found with Volta, is in a few of the costume choices (Zaldy Goco). Cirque uses specific “tribal” patterns and fashionings that can feel particularly uncomfortable when just stitched together without any real meaning. Especially when characters wearing these same outfits also have on something closely related to a headdress and are white. It’s hard to separate the context of the two, and I winced every time these outfits showed up. It’s 2019 and designers keep using Native American and African prints to showcase fantasy. While the show is in fact jaw-dropping, Cirque du Soleil should still be held accountable for this choice.
Beyond that, Cirque Du Soleil’s Volta is a mystifying experience enjoyable for all ages whether three years old or three hundred. It’s an experience like no other being offered right now.
Cirque Du Soleil’s Volta runs at Soldier Field until July 6th and tickets start at $50. Photos by Patrice Lamoureux.