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Life Under the Big Top with Cirque du Soleil

A hoops dancer enthralls in Cirque du Soleil's Totem (photo by Daniel Desmarias)

AUGUST 11 TO OCTOBER 9 Never known to shy away from a challenge, Cirque du Soleil makes magic out of a most ambitious subject, the evolution of life on earth, in its latest touring production. This month, Totem comes alive under the Grand Chapiteau with more than 50 cast members from around the world. Colourfully adorned hoop dancers, unicyclists, acrobats and more take the stage in this magically evocative display.

Unfolding like an epic creation myth, Totem begins with prehistory, envisioning the original amphibian state from which many animals grew, and progresses through a variety of acrobatic feats to ultimately reflect the evolution of human aspiration. Much of the action takes place on a stylized turtle shell representing Mother Earth, a common theme of many origin stories. Other memorable characters include a grey-haired clown reminiscent of Charles Darwin, as well as the Crystal Man—signifying the “life force”—who drops from the sky in a ball of energy, his costume glittering with tiny mirrors and crystals.

Totem is the second collaboration between Cirque du Soleil and master theatre director Robert Lepage. Its April 2010 world premiere thrilled audiences in Montreal, and since then it has played in Quebec City, Amsterdam and London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall. No doubt the production will have Toronto audiences clamouring for more—a desire that can be fulfilled when the troupe returns in October to present a show based on the music of Michael Jackson. The Grand Chapiteau at the Port Lands, Tuesday to Thursday 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4 and 8 p.m., Sunday 1 and 5 p.m., adults $73.50 to $248.50, children (aged 2 to 12) $54 to $208; call 1-800-450-1480 or visit here to purchase tickets.

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