Cirque du Soleil – Luzia

Cirque du Soleil LuziaAdelaide Show Grounds. 12 Jun 2024


Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, intricate costumes, and gravity-defying performances. It is a mesmerising homage to the spirit of Mexico, rich with cultural symbolism and vibrant imagery. The 38th production since 1984, Luzia first premiered in 2016 and is the second tribute to the richness of Mexican culture – the first being Joyà in 2014.


Nestled within the infamous Cirque du Soleil ‘big top’, audiences discover a circular stage, replete with a veritable garden of Cempasuchil flowers (Yellow, or Aztec Marigolds). This is a stage designed for performance in the round, and when it revolves it ensures a prime view for every seat in the house.


“Fasten your seatbelts” we are told, as the lights dim; a solitary skydiver descending from the big top’s apex. It is Eric Koller – physical comedian and clown – parachuting into our hearts and minds. Arguably the heart and sole of Luzia, Koller weaves his simple narrative throughout the production, showcasing his impeccable timing and a boundless expressive range.


The dreamlike world of Luzia is then brought to life by Olivia Aepli as the ‘Running Woman’. She is accompanied by a majestic metallic horse puppet which dominates the stage and commands our attention. Aepli, clad in a stunning, expansive costume of the monarch butterfly, spreads her enormous butterfly wings and signals the beginning of our migratory journey.


An exhilarating ‘Hoop Diving’ performance follows where the cast, dressed as vibrant hummingbirds, bring the stage to life with spectacular tumbling and impeccable timing. Each performer soars and twists through the hoops with breathtaking precision, their feathered costumes creating the illusion of a flock in flight.


Then, in ‘Adagio’ – which is a nod to the golden age of Mexican cinema - the ‘flyer’ (Naomi Zimmerman / Anastasia Gorbatyuk), with the utmost poise and unwavering trust, places her life in the hands of her three ‘porters’ (Roberto Carlos Freitas Grispach, Anton Glazkov, Krzysztof Holowenko), creating a breathtaking display of human connection and courage. Each hand-to-hand throw and catch is testament to the profound trust and teamwork of the performers as she is flipped and hurled through the air; the elegance and grace, perfectly juxtaposed with real danger and genuine risk. There are no safety nets here, folks. No crash mats to catch a fall.


Tall, dominating cacti are silhouetted against the setting sun as Enya White then takes to the trapeze in a sensual collaboration with a cyr wheel artist (Sarah Togni / Shena Tschofen) amongst a cascading waterfall that descends from the heavens. Together the women create a seamless blend of strength and fluidity, each swing and spin echoing the rhythm of the falling water. The water becomes part of their dance as the droplets leap from their spinning and swinging bodies.


The name ‘Luzia’ is actually a fusion of two Spanish words that mean ‘light’ and ‘rain’, both core elements in this show’s creation. The lighting is exceptional throughout, but at this early stage we have barely scratched the surface where the water is concerned.


Koller returns with beachball and whistle in hand. It is clowning at its best as he takes the audience on an epic storytelling journey with nothing but his skilful expressions and the aid of the whistle. The audience are putty in his hands, just begging to be shaped and manipulated.


Then continuing the theme of the beach, and re-enforcing 1920s Mexican cinema, strongman Ugo Laffolay demonstrates his exceptional physical strength and balance atop a dangerously tall stack of hand-balancing poles. Then footballers, Abou Traoré and Igo Da Silva Matos wow us with their exceptional soccer ball juggling abilities in a nod to the highly celebrated Mexican sport. They kick, flip, spin, and even breakdance(!) with consummate skill.


When Koller again returns, shortly before intermission, to take on the ‘rain’ and attempt to fill his drink bottle, everyone in the house is left in stitches. Impressively, the shower of water begins to depict elements of the native flora and fauna of Mexico.  


After intermission the set continues its transformation. Luzia is filled with references to Mexican cinema, art, handicraft, religion and history including a giant suspended orb that features as a major part of the set and is variously lit or projected onto throughout the production. It is affectionately titled the ‘Disk of Luzia’. The disk is said to reference the sun, the moon and the Aztec calendar.


The following performances of ‘Masts and Poles’ and then Krzysztof Holowenko’s 360 degree rotation on a giant swing wearing a luchador mask continue the Mexican themes. Though the production’s emotional pinnacle is reached, however, when Jérome Sordillon takes to the Aerial straps, as singer Majo Cornejo elicits spine tingling tones with her exceptional vocalisations.


Sordillon, representing a “demigod of rain” emerges on the aerial strap from a pool centre stage. The pool references a naturally occurring Mayan sinkhole which were believed to be “gateways to the afterlife”. Sordillon performs a mesmerising dance with a life-size panther puppet brought to life by puppeteers, Gerardo Ballester and Andrii Lytvak, in a performance where man and beast seem to become one. Here, the sequencing, choreography, production values, and music are so perfectly executed as to be emotionally overwhelming! It is indeed a spectacle to behold.


With this hard act to follow, Ivan Do-Duc has his work cut out, but does not fail to amaze with his tricks on the bicycle. Then contortionist, Aleksei Goloborodko, divides the audience, with many turning to look away as he demonstrates almost unnatural levels of flexibility. One sits in astonishment, marvelling at Goloborodko’s exquisite control and balance as he twists and bends into seemingly impossible shapes.


The closing act, entitled ‘Swing to Swing’ brings home the ever-present danger for this troupe of performers, as not one, but three, fail to land complex flips between apparatus. It is a chilling reminder – and not the first of the evening – of the courage and sheer will these talented individuals bring to bear each and every night.


As the evening draws to its conclusion and the artists take their bows, many of the opening night audience spring to their feet in a round of well-earned adulation. This is a night much loved by those in attendance, and one I suspect many will speak of for days and weeks to come.


Get in on the experience. This is not a show to be missed.


Paul Rodda


When: 9 Jun to 7 Jul

Where: Adelaide Show Grounds